To mark #TimeToTalk Day, client and volunteer Ian Lamb writes about a recent conversation he had with a friend and reflects on the importance of talking about mental health.
The words “mental health” are powerful enough words to drum up all kinds of thoughts, which can include the various stigmas associated with it to the very common phrase “That’s something that will never affect me”.
The bottom line is EVERYONE has mental health, just like we all have physical health – and who goes through life without setbacks and difficulties? We all go through challenges with our physical health, but that gets talked about more freely with your family, friends and even your GP. But when it comes to mental health, talking about this isn’t so easy. Why?
Only the other day, I spoke with a good friend of mine who had been sick with coronavirus, so he’d had to isolate for several days. This is someone who is always working, very sociable and always on the go. I asked him in confidence while also trying to remain as relaxed with the question as I could be, “How did you find your mental health during your time away?”. His response to this wasn’t anything to do with my question nor mental health at all. Deflecting? We were talking about cars. He had heard me and I was aware he had chosen not to answer. Which is fine but it got me thinking about why people find it hard to talk, because he was fine with talking about the physical symptoms he felt with coronavirus. But what about his mental health, how did he cope with doing nothing?
Maybe he didn’t want to answer because it’s none of my business, or perhaps, there really is nothing to say about it? Or maybe he didn’t say it because he didn’t know how to or what to say. Perhaps he wondered what I would think if he did speak up?
The truth is, I wouldn’t have thought anything less of him whether he struggled to cope or not. I’d have listened. I did listen.
This scenario created an experience within myself. Seeing how far I’d come. I’m still learning to normalise talking about mental health. Thinking and talking about it still doesn’t come easy but I know it’s somehow worth it. As I continue learning about recognising my early symptoms I’m still met with “Should I seek support now?” or “Who should I talk to. What if I’m overreacting?”. Sweeping it under the carpet and not talking is a damn sight easier but I kept doing that to the point where I ended up at Mind in Bradford, feeling desperate as I was frustrated with going around in circles with these intense emotions, which did at times include suicidal thinking. I’d lost all perspective and as hard and as difficult it is, talking really is the best medicine.
Mind in Bradford have many ways in which to reach you so you can open up and talk, whether that’s in-person or over the phone, and one-to-one or within a group setting, such as Peer Support. If face-to-face really isn’t your thing just now then try their Guide-Line, open 12pm-12am every day of the year on 08001 884 884. Mind in Bradford also runs an online live chat, as well as groups such as Arts and Crafts and Mindfulness, which are aimed at encouraging you to express your thoughts and feelings if you find talking difficult.
It’s all about opening up in whatever way works best for you and in a place that can provide a safe and relaxing space for you to do that.