Time to Talk – however you do it
One in four of us will experience a mental health problem this year. That’s a quarter of the people in any family, workplace or group of friends. Today is Time to Talk Day which has been launched by Mind, Rethink Mental Illness and the Co-op to encourage people to create supportive communities by talking openly about mental health.
The pandemic has increased our need for communication, while also making it more difficult. The world has become more virtual: fewer in-person meetings, and more video calls than visits and meet-ups. The important thing to remember today is to start a conversation about mental health, however you do it.
Why is it so important to talk?
First, there’s the good feeling that comes from getting something out into the open, and being listened to. This strengthens and deepens connections, which benefits the listener as well as the person sharing.
It also boosts our wellbeing to experience what accredited CBT therapist Kate Tilbury calls ‘communal support’. “It’s natural to want to put walls and defences up when we’re feeling down or anxious, but this creates an illusion of what it is to be human,” she explains. “Everyone else seems to be coping fine, when we’re all subject to the whole array of emotions. If we never share this, we’re missing a vital piece of the puzzle – we’re not allowing ourselves to be supported, or to be supportive, either.”
Hearing yourself talk to someone else can also help you understand what you’re feeling and thinking, and how you’re responding to it. Articulating the internal narrative gives you the chance to notice what you’re saying, and choose to change your perspective or focus. For example, if you recognise you’re being very self-critical, you can decide to be kinder and more compassionate with yourself.
The good news is that these benefits apply whether you talk to someone face-to-face or virtually. It’s very possible to have a warm, trusting and meaningful rapport with someone you’re not physically with, and it can even feel easier to ‘open up’ about difficult or personal things.
Starting the conversation
The Time to Talk Day website has plenty of ideas for how to get people talking – which could be as simple as checking in with a friend or colleague, popping posters on noticeboards, or running a ‘lunch and learn’ in the office. The organisers offer a free downloadable resource pack.
There’s also a dedicated section for employers who want to encourage more communication about mental health in the workplace, and create a culture in which people feel safe expressing their thoughts and feelings. This report from Mind – Together Through Tough Times – might also provide some good inspiration.
If you want to talk… Think who would be the best person to approach, based on what you want to talk about, and who you’d trust to share your innermost concerns with.
Some people worry that talking about their problems is a sign of weakness. “We should remember that we’re all hardwired for connection with others,” advises Kate Tilbury. “We’re social beings, and loneliness has been shown to trigger the same areas in the brain as pain, so you’re definitely not needy or weak for needing to talk.”
If you’re still feeling reluctant to take the step, ask yourself – how long have you kept this inside, and tried to deal with it on your own? How has that worked for you? Do you owe it to yourself to try something different?
We might also have negative beliefs and expectations about sharing what’s on our mind –for example that nobody will listen, or that they won’t take us seriously. It’s worth challenging these: How likely is it that the person you’ve chosen will reject you, based on your past relationship? With so many of us experiencing mental health problems, is it likely that they’ve never needed to talk to someone themselves?
If you want to listen… Don’t keep your distance simply because you’re worried about making it worse, or saying the wrong thing. We don’t need to come up with the perfect words or provide solutions.
“The important thing is to listen open-heartedly, and stay curious and present. Not everyone wants advice or ideas, some people just want someone to sit with them. Asking them what they need from the conversation is a good way to start.”
If there’s nobody suitable to talk to in your close circle of friends, family or colleagues, please think about seeking professional help.
ieso uses technology and data science to better understand, prevent, detect, and treat mental health conditions. Its core product offers AI-powered, therapist-delivered, digital cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). With a growing network of 600 fully qualified therapists, ieso serves more than 20 million adults through the UK National Health Service (NHS).
For UK Time to Talk Day, the ieso clinical offer their advice on how to start a conversation about mental health
In this team spotlight interview, we spoke to Dr Alyssa Dietz about her role as Head of US Clinical Strategy.