More of us are affected by mental health conditions than ever before so banishing the stigma surrounding it is becoming increasingly important.
Many initiatives have been set up over the years in a bid to do just this and one particular campaign that is gaining momentum is Time to Talk Day. On the 4th of February, across the UK individuals were encouraged to get as many people talking about mental health as possible.
With everyone joining together on one day it’s hoped that we can break the taboo that surrounds this topic once and for all. Whether you ran or attended an event or simply made the effort to have a conversation with someone about mental health, everyone was encouraged to get involved and to keep it going.
Why is talking about mental health so important?
Anyone who has ever suffered from depression, anxiety, PTSD, an addiction or eating disorder will know that it’s incredibly isolating. You imagine that you’re the only person in the world feeling this way and that nobody else could possibly understand what you’re going through.
What makes it worse is that sadly there is still stigma associated with these issues so people are often too scared to confide in others in case they judge them or think less of them.
Talking to someone about mental illness is a huge step towards diagnosing and treating the problem and this is the very reason why it’s so important to get people talking about it. In order to help aid recovery, it’s also crucial that the people around the sufferer know what’s going on so they know how to support the person.
Depression is something that can be all-consuming for example. Everyday life can feel like a huge struggle and therefore someone might call in sick to work more often, cancel plans with friends, be more tearful or irritable and become withdrawn.
To an outsider who doesn’t know what’s going on, this person may come across as moody, rude or ungrateful. If those around them are aware of what’s going on however, they know that nothing could be further from the truth and that this person just needs their support.
It’s not just the support of those around us that’s important when it comes to dealing with mental illness however. Those who do seek help are often surprised to learn that many other people are dealing with the same or similar issues. Having a support group of people who understand exactly how you’re feeling is invaluable - not just through recovery but these people often become lifelong friends.
The stigma associated with mental health
Stigma is the perception that a certain attribute makes a person unacceptably different from others. The outcome of this is prejudice and discrimination and unfortunately, there is plenty of this when it comes to mental health issues.
Whether you know it or not, there is an incredibly high possibility that mental health has affected you in some way. Even if you yourself haven’t had an illness, it’s almost guaranteed that a friend, family member, colleague or even that person you sit across from on the train every morning has suffered at some point in their life.
Although there is still much work to be done, the good news is that the UK has come a long way with regards to the stigma surrounding mental health. There are a number of things that have helped to push this along:
Awareness - even within the last decade mental illness wasn’t something that was openly discussed. This doesn’t mean that the likes of depression and anxiety didn’t exist, it’s just that nobody understood why some people felt the way they did. Now that mental illness is something we understand a lot better, there’s a lot more awareness about it and doctors have the knowledge they need in order to diagnose it. Being aware that your mental health is as important as your physical health and that mental health issues are very common has been a huge help to reduce the associated stigma.
High profile cases - just because someone is rich and talented doesn’t mean that they can’t suffer from a mental health condition. In recent years more and more celebrities have come forward about their experiences with depression, anxiety, addictions and eating disorders and this has been a huge inspiration to many to speak up and seek help. Not only does it prove once and for all that mental illness can affect absolutely anyone but it also encourages others to speak out about their problems.
Support - 20 years ago if someone had depression it’s very unlikely that they would have been diagnosed with it. Sadly, this meant that many suffered in silence. Today, an increase in awareness means that doctors and psychiatrists know what to look out for and how to treat these issues. Once people are diagnosed they can be prescribed medication, talk to loved ones about it and even join support groups.
If you would like more information about Time to Talk please visit the Time to Change website.
If you think that you or someone you know needs support with a mental health condition, please feel free to visit our Treatment Programmes Page for more information about the signs, symptoms and treatments that are available.