Despite changing attitudes towards mental health, it remains a taboo subject with fear of discrimination. ‘Time to Talk Day’ is a great example of a campaign raising the profile of mental health and encouraging an open dialogue. However, it can be overwhelming for those experiencing mental ill health to start the conversation. We are encouraging people to listen, this ’Time to Talk Day’ to support those suffering from mental illness.
Many people avoid talking about their mental health problems because they are worried about how other people may react to hearing about their experiences. This can leave the individual feeling isolated and vulnerable. Statistics released by Time to Change say 60% of people with a mental health problem waited over a year to tell the people closest to them about it. Instead of the responsibility falling on those struggling to talk, our Professional Head of Emotional Wellbeing, Brendan Street, suggests supporting those through listening.
Brendan Street, comments: “It may be a hard-hitting statistic that 1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health problem each year, but what’s more important to recognise is “4 in 4” of us have mental health, we all have a mental state to protect and enhance. While it can seem really hard to know what to say to someone who is in distress, by taking the time to listen to them, you are showing them the care and support they may need to find further help. Let’s make ‘Time to Talk day’ ‘Time to Listen day’”
Top tips to help you listen better:
- Keep it simple. Showing that you are ready to listen needn’t be complicated. Often a simple “Are you OK?” and “Are you really OK?” if the reply with “I’m fine” is enough. Then follow up with open questions “What does that feel like?”
- Sometimes it is easier to talk and listen whilst doing something else, maybe a walk in the park, or whilst stuck in traffic. Some people find it easier to talk, and listen, when side to side, not face to face.
- Solace not solutions. Don’t try and fix the situation, support the person by really listening and trying to understand their difficulties
- Active listening - making a conscious effort to hear not only the words another person is saying, but also the message they are trying to convey by reflecting and giving regular feedback, showing you are equally committed to the conversation.
- Body language - be aware of your body language; make sure your demeanour is relaxed, open and engaged to encourage them to tell their story.
As the old saying goes, ‘a conversation is a two-way street’. However, it can be easy to fall into the trap of second-guessing responses, interrupting, or making someone’s personal story about yourself. It’s not your role to diagnose. Support them and encourage them to seek the opinion of an expert, be it a GP, Cognitive Behavioural Therapist, counsellor or psychiatrist.
Brendan continues: “We are trying to make mental health support more accessible. We have a number of online and face-to-face services available, including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which is a clinically proven therapy effective in treating problems such as depression, anxiety, self-esteem, anger management, post-traumatic stress disorder and specific phobias.”
For more information about our emotional wellbeing services, see here.
Last updated Wednesday 19 January 2022
First published on Thursday 6 February 2020