Talking about mental health – and why it’s not as easy as you think
With #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek coming up (13th – 19th May), people are sharing their stories of their struggles and how they cope with these on a day-to-day basis.
While it’s great that society is gradually getting to a stage where people feel they can be honest about their mental health difficulties, there’s still more we can do to encourage conversations.
For all the celebrity stories and campaigns, the fact is there are still thousands (maybe even millions) of people who are not at that stage where they can honestly approach a health care professional or even their friends and family about mental health; something which is very close to my heart.
Unfortunately, despite all the great work charities and public figures have done over the years, the stigma and lack of empathy around mental health still exists. In some cases, like this one, mental health is even dismissed entirely. And this may lead to people in need of support continuing to struggle in silence.
But there are ways we can address this, starting with paying attention to what people aren’t saying. If you notice someone close to you is a little quieter than usual, or sounds a bit ‘off’, don’t be afraid to ask them how they’re feeling. Take them out for a coffee or for some fresh air and pay close attention not just to the words they say, but how they say them and their body language.
Be patient too – many people affected by mental health don’t always know how to talk about their feelings and so try to make sense of them themselves before talking about them. And if your friend/family member/colleague doesn’t feel comfortable in talking yet, don’t press them.
Instead offer them a saying – ‘I’m always here for you if you need to talk.’
Just 10 small words but which can have a huge, positive impact on someone struggling with mental health. They might not be ready to talk at that precise moment, but showing that you care and that you’re ready to listen will mean more than you might realise.
Mental health affects around one in four of us. That means there’s a pretty high chance that someone you know is struggling in silence. And if that’s the case, offering them the opportunity to talk in their own time offers them something else; hope and encouragement.
Or, if you’re starting to notice that something inside you feels different, try and talk to someone yourself. It’s not always easy, but asking questions about mental health can help you understand what you’re experiencing, why you’re feeling a particular way, and what steps you can take to address it.
Support organisations such as Mind, the Samaritans, and Time to Change, are just three voices leading the discussion on mental health, and have a wealth of information on where to find additional help. That help might come from a GP (like our client The Practice Group, which has been right behind mental health support for some considerable time) or group therapy sessions, whatever works best for you.
By starting to have a conversation around mental health, we can ensure that anyone who is struggling is not carrying the burden on their own. And that talking about our feelings and emotions becomes just that little bit easier.
By Daniel Burton
Senior PR Account Executive