Time to Talk
We Need to Talk about Mental Health – Time to Talk 2022
This year, Time to Talk takes place on Thursday 3rd February and Sunday 6th February - days when we are encouraged to talk about mental health in a supportive way, with family, friends or colleagues. We all have mental health, and 1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health issue this year. That’s a lot of people, so it’s certainly not unusual, and no-one should feel alone.
So why do we need special days to talk about our mental health? We should feel able to talk about issues we are struggling with any time of the year, but both days are a great way of raising awareness of the importance of doing just that; giving people the courage to touch base with others.
Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, in partnership with the Co-Op, start the conversation on 3rd February, and Healthwatch continues raising awareness on 6th February. Two days to have more conversations than ever before! Amplified by the pandemic, so many people have struggled over the last couple of years, meaning an ever increasing number of incidences of anxiety and loneliness – an invisible epidemic within a physical epidemic. We definitely need to talk and talking itself can change lives!
Whilst Mind and Rethink Mental Illness are best placed to advise on mental health conditions, we all can make a difference by helping those who are struggling to feel comfortable about sharing concerns and worries. So how do we do this? Well, hopefully the following may help:
- Listening is far better than talking. If a person begins to open up about concerns/pressures, practise active listening rather than launching into your own problems and taking over the conversation. Listen by Kathryn Mannix is a fantastic book about being there for friends and loved ones when they need support.
Listen - Kathryn Mannix
- Observations are better than closed questions. ‘Are you okay?’ is a closed question, rather than ‘You seem a bit quiet today – is everything okay?’ This is a much more personal approach; being interested enough to observe and enquire..
- Be patient. It takes a while for a person to gain trust and want to open up. ‘I’m here if you would like to talk’ suggests that this isn’t a one-off and is more an ongoing conversation that doesn’t need to be rushed.
- Active listening isn’t passive. It requires really attending to what an individual is saying. A great way of demonstrating that you are truly listening is to paraphrase what has been said. Another way of conveying ‘I hear what you say’.
- No special time or place is required. People tend to open up when they are undertaking a shared activity as this removes the focus and can be less intimidating.
- Don’t be afraid of the elephant in the room. Like all elephants, it needs to be exposed and shared. That way, it’s out in the open and no longer a taboo.
Here are two books which confront and expose our fears about anxiety in an easy to read and engaging way. Whilst both are picture books, they are suitable for any age group and sum up the benefits of talking about our fears.
Ruby’s Worry – Tom Percival
All Birds have Anxiety – Kathy Hoopmann
- Practising mindfulness really does help. Whilst you may not think it’s for you, it does definitely calm the mind, and deflect feelings of anxiety. The secret is, find a hobby or interest which completely absorbs you. Everyone is an individual. But the following may help:
Reading – pure escapism in a book!
Cooking – good for physical health, too
Gardening – fresh air and home grown!
Bird watching – get to know your feathered friends
Fishing – a real resurgence of interest. As Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse have discovered..
Physical exercise – walking/swimming/running – gets those endorphins going! Do check with your GP if you haven’t undertaken exercise in a while.
Here are a couple of books which help you to become more mindful. Matthew Johnstone’s classic picture book for adults sums up what it feels like to be frazzled, and how mindful activities help to regain the balance.
Quiet the Mind – Matthew Johnstone
Lorna Salmon’s The calm kitchen not only illustrates how cooking can been mindful, but how we can also reconnect with nature through food. Mind, body and spirit..
Lorna Salmon – The Calm Kitchen
- The Great Outdoors is a remedy! Being outside can help us feel invigorated. Do you know that Denmark is the happiest country? This may surprise you as it certainly isn’t one of the warmest countries, but Scandinavians have long learned to embrace their climate, and go out in all weathers. This means that they also appreciate time spent indoors as well, practising the art of hygge.
Losing Eden by Lucy Jones is an elegy to the power of nature. It emphasises how disconnected we have become, and how we need it more than ever to help restore our physical and mental health. Read this book, and I guarantee it will convince you that time spent outdoors is essential!
Losing Eden – Lucy Jones
- Your GP doesn’t only prescribe medication. Many GPs are now prescribing activities to help raise mood. These activities range from joining your local library – much recommended! – learning a new skill; becoming a volunteer, or doing an outdoor activity such as walking or gardening. Wild swimming is also a powerful way of clearing your mind, and is increasingly prescribed. Why not contact your local GP practice for further details?
If you are feeling deflated and demotivated – and you are not alone during the winter months – then Living Life to the Full by Chris Williams may be the kick-start you need. Full of powerful bite sized strategies, this book is easy to digest and very attractively presented. It will certainly help to get your life back on track.
Living Life to the Full – Chris Williams
- And finally, your local library can help. Gloucestershire Libraries has lots of books which aim to alleviate anxiety and depression, and our Reading Well collections have many titles which help to do just that. Remember, membership is free and books can provide knowledge, solace and escapism – in short a gateway to another world.. Time to Talk about our mental health and join your local library.