Every year, the British charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness host ‘Time to Talk Day’, an event that encourages us all to open up and talk about mental health and break the taboos. This year, the day falls on Thursday 4th February and is focused on busting myths and ending isolation and shame for those of us who suffer with mental health issues.
Mental health has long been a taboo in societies across the world. Sufferers believe that opening up about how they’re feeling is a sign of weakness and vulnerability. They believe that it’s all their fault for being ‘weak’, that they’ll be blamed or worse still, stigmatised and treated badly.
However, this simply isn’t true. Mental health problems are just like any other health problem and we all deserve to get the treatment required.
As Michelle Obama famously said: “Sadly, too often, the stigma around mental health prevents people who need help from seeking it. But that simply doesn’t make any sense. Whether an illness affects your heart, your arm or your brain, it’s still an illness, and there shouldn’t be any distinction...We shouldn’t treat mental health conditions any differently.”
By attempting to ignore the problem or keep our suffering to ourselves, you’re only making the problem worse. You’re not getting the support and understanding you need. Whether you just need someone to listen to how you’re feeling, or you need professional help, opening up and talking about it can make a big difference.
Breaking the taboo of mental health
Fortunately, we’ve seen a shift over recent decades. More of us are willing to open up and share how we’re feeling because of mental health awareness campaigns like this one, and high profile figures sharing their mental health diagnoses and challenges, although we still have a long way to go, especially when it comes to older generations.
With an estimated 1 in 4 of us experiencing a mental health problem each year in England and then the added pressures of the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown over the past year, this couldn’t come at a better time.
What can we do?
You can become part of this change whether you suffer from mental health problems yourself or you know someone who does. It all starts with having that conversation.
“The more we talk, the more myths we bust and barriers we break. We can help to end the stigma that surrounds mental ill health – by talking about our own feelings and being open to listening to others,” says the Time to Talk campaign.
Make sure you stay in touch with those you care about and ask them how they’re feeling. Listen without judgement. Share your own experiences. Even if you can’t be there with them in person, be that source of support and understanding that person needs to get through those difficult times. If you’re the one who is struggling, take a deep breath and admit how you’re feeling. Get the help you need. Don’t allow yourself to turn into another statistic.
Together we can break the mental health taboo and build a better future.
If you need support with your mental health, see the following resources or speak to a medical professional.
Mental Health Foundation: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/getting-help