It’s Time to Talk!
Today is ‘Time to Talk’ day 2018. But when’s the right time to talk about mental health?
Anytime and anywhere! The stigma surrounding mental health can make conversations seem difficult, but the more we talk, and listen, the less power stigma will have.
What do people mean when they talk about ‘stigma’?
Stigma involves being disliked or treated badly because of some characteristic. If something has a stigma attached to it, people sometimes think it is something to be ashamed of. Stigma can happen at school, among your friends, in the workplace, in health care settings and even in your own family.
What does it feel like to experience stigma?
My experiences of stigma may seem extreme, but they are surprisingly common. I have felt truly isolated. I was ashamed and immensely worried about what people thought, for years I kept my struggles a complete secret from even my family. I felt like I was tainted. Even the thought of asking for help was terrifying.
When I broke my wrist, everyone was keen to sign my cast, ask questions and give sympathy, but my mental illness was met with a very different response. When I gathered the courage to open up, some of my peers told me I was being ‘dramatic’, ‘intense’ and told me to ‘stop exaggerating’. An ex-partner called me names like ‘crazy’ ‘psycho’, and ‘attention seeking’. My university accused me of making my mental illness up, despite letters from my doctors, and I stopped looking for a job as I feared an employer finding out about my condition.
Dealing with mental illness is hard enough, without also managing the stresses that come from the stigma. I secluded myself from everyone and everything, as this felt easier than explaining to people what I was struggling with. The isolation and worthlessness I felt because of the stigma, only made my mental illness worse.
With the support of some great people, I am learning that not everyone views mental illness with stigma. The people who treated me badly; their behaviour reflects them, not me. I’ve become more confident to have honest conversations with people outside my support network too. I still encounter stigma, just last week, a professional told me “but you don’t look ill, you look absolutely fine”. I reminded him that mental illness is invisible, and we had a friendly and open chat about stigma
What can we do to stop the stigma?
Time to Talk Day is an opportunity to encourage everyone, not just people with personal experience, to be more open about mental health; to talk and listen, to change lives. By getting people talking, we can take away the stigma from something that affects all of us.
Don’t underestimate how much you can help reduce stigma around mental health. Here are some things you can try:
- Message a friend to ask how they are
- Tell someone about Time to Talk day
- Post on social media about Time to Talk day, there are lots of great images on the Time to Change website
- Treat people the same as you’d like to be treated
- Try to be open minded and honest
- Remember to only do what feels comfortable for you
Other useful links I’ve found
Advice on how to start conversations;
Find out who your MindMates are and start a conversation today;
Time to Change have some really helpful resources and information;