We have #TimetoTalk day, #MentalHealthDay and #WorldMentalHealthDay where people speak up and spread the message that it’s ok not to be ok, and trying to end the stigma and spread awareness about mental health. It’s something we all have, yet we don’t talk about it enough.
A lot of us might feel confident enough to talk about our mental health and struggles online to strangers, but what about the people you’re with everyday? When and how do you talk to them?
I was recently asked when was the first time I tried to open up about my mental health. I had never really thought about it. When I realised that I was just 14 years old, for the first time opening up to my Mum about some scary dark thoughts I’d been having; my heart sank. I was a baby. Why is a person that young feeling like they’ve lost all hope? I was 12/13 years old when I was first aware of troubling mental health problems, but never told anyone. There weren’t really any facilities or awareness - this was thirteen years ago.
Back in January 2010 there had been a really bad snowstorm, which stopped me from being able to go to school. I realised over those few days of isolation that these dark thoughts and feelings were serious; and I needed to vocalise it. It was just my Mum and I living together at the time, and I don’t know how it came about but I told her how I was feeling. She just brushed it off as hormones and being a teenager. I remember vividly that I was about to argue that it was more serious than that, but I felt so deflated from having the courage to speak up, then it being almost dismissed as something I’d grow out of. I don’t blame my Mum at all. As I mentioned before I don’t think anyone knew services that could help, not like there are today.
The next time I spoke to my parents about my mental health, was when my everyday life was being impacted by physical symptoms. Five years later my mental health crumbled to the point where I was anxious to leave the house and to answer phone calls and the like. This time around I had been going to the doctors for my physical symptoms, and my doctor referred me to the local mental health service for cognitive behavioural therapy. I think because my parents could see how much I was struggling, and they had heard and learned more about mental health they were slightly better equipped to support me.
So when is the right time to talk to someone? In hindsight now, I would’ve probably looked online first for help and support. I didn’t really know what was wrong with me, so how were my parents supposed to know? I think now it’s easier to bring mental health up with friends, family and colleagues, but we’re still hesitant to do so. When we ask each other how we’re doing, we should be able to answer “you know what, I’m really struggling with my mental health”. Whoever is on the receiving end of that might be able to offer support, or advice from their own experience. Rather than just a blanket response; “I’m alright thanks, you?”.
What steps can you take to begin opening up to the people around you?
Test the water with someone you trust and are close with. When they ask you how you are, try and be a little more honest with them and see how they react. You don’t want to open yourself up too much, and then feel worse about your mental health.
You could even be more upfront if you have the courage, ask them how their mental health is. If they seem disinterested, or don’t return the favour you’ll know you're barking up the wrong tree.
There are so many people online, next time you scroll past an internet friend/stranger and they seem to be talking about mental health, pop them a message or comment on their post. Sometimes strangers can be the nicest and most understanding people, and plenty of them are looking for support and friendship; just like you. The Mind charity has an amazing online support community.
If you feel that you’re really struggling with your mental health, that it’s affecting your day to day life, it might be worth seeking some professional support. Try the Mind helpline 0300 123 3393 or text 86463 or the Samaritans helpline 116 123. It might seem big and scary, but you don’t have to commit to anything, these services are available to listen and offer you the best advice.
Even here at MindMapper, a service which has been specifically created for young people. On the homepage when you click on 'Start Here', it'll take you to a quick and easy form to fill out to match you to the best resource to help you.
No matter where you are, you are not alone.
Mind helpline 0300 123 3393 or text 86463
Samaritans helpline 116 123