Time to talk

Time To Talk – How To Talk!

As a mental health charity, we are pleased to support Time To Talk Day, and to increase the public conversation about mental health. As Time To Talk really highlights, the pressure to talk about mental health is so often on the people currently experiencing mental health challenges, and so focusing on what all of us can do to increase awareness and support is a campaign we can really get behind! But… it can be easier said than done! Where do we start? How do we do it? And how do we talk about ‘it’ without getting it wrong? Here are some tips to get the conversation started…

Make yourself available

We’re all busy, but we all have a couple of minutes that we could set aside to make contact with the people in our lives and our communities who need a little bit extra at the moment. Have a think about how your week looks, and how much time you could commit to connecting with someone who’s currently feeling a bit vulnerable.

It might only be five minutes to send and respond to a text message, but that could make all the difference in the world. Or it might be an hour a week that you could meet up with a friend for coffee, or volunteer for a community group or befriender programme in your area. There are so many opportunities to connect with others, so the first step is to think about how, and when.

Rethink any stigmas or judgments

We live in a culture that still stigmatises mental health, but times are changing, and we can be part of the change. Make yourself a cup of tea, and sit down and think about your views on mental health. Do you feel comfortable talking about it? Or are you worried about saying the wrong thing? So often, we’re fine to talk about physical aches and pains, but less able to talk about mental aches and pains. We’re moving towards a time where we can accept depression and anxiety in the same way that we can discuss depression and anxiety in the same way as tonsilitis and headaches.

Listen

We’re all guilty of waiting for our turn to talk in conversations, rather than actually listening to what the other person has to say. Make a point of switching off your inside voices when you’re having these conversations, and really commit to listening to what the other person has to say. What they’re saying may be difficult for them to share, so really set some time aside for them – turn off your notifications on your phone, and find a time and place where you can really focus on the other person, without distraction.

Keep it honest

Sometimes we don’t know what to say but, to be honest, that’s totally ok. If you’re talking to someone with mental health challenges at the moment, they might really recognise that feeling! Just remember, it’s not your job to fix them – you’re just aiming to accept and understand them. Just saying, ‘that sounds so hard. I wish there was something I could do, but I can’t. Just know that I’m here for you’ can be so empathic and reassuring to the other person.

Change the future

Us parents are all busy doing one hundred things every day, juggling everyone’s needs, and still finding enough time to pick up something for tea. Making space for quality 1:1 time with our children can sometimes drop to the bottom of things to tick off, but we need to make such it’s on the priority list. Using books and films can be a great way of starting conversations with our children, and developing their understanding of their emotions; a vital tool in managing our feelings and creating a sense of wellbeing. Little ones might like a book like That’s When I’m Happy – a great way to introduce basic emotions to pre-school age children. For primary school aged children, I Am A Rainbow (by Dolly Parton) looks at different emotions and how we can begin to manage our feelings. Finally, for older children and teens – how about sitting down and watching Inside Out, and starting a conversation with your children about their emotional world? (see links below)

Pre-school – That’s When I’m Happy

Primary School – I am a Rainbow

Pre-teen/teen – Inside Out