It’s time we learned to talk

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As February heralds Time to Talk day, Dorset Mind’s Ash Langwith looks at how we can make it easier to talk and to listen, breaking the stigma

Talking with friends and colleagues breaks the ice – shutterstock

Time to Talk Day is an annual celebration of mental health, organised by the two charities Mind and Rethink to encourage people of all ages to start a conversation, whether it be at work, a place of study or at home. The important thing is to be open with your friends, families and colleagues.
The aim is to normalise talking about mental health whenever you need to – at any time of year.

Why is talking important?
Talking honestly about our mental health helps to create supportive communities and an understanding environment. It will also reduce the stigma surrounding these conversations, which can be a massive barrier to seeking support. If someone in your circle doesn’t have the courage to speak up, seeing you take that first step might be the reassurance they need, letting them know they are in a safe space and have allies they can turn to.
As someone with several mental health conditions, I find that it’s important to express how I feel. And talking doesn’t have to mean over-sharing. If you’re nervous about talking about mental health for the first time, simply mentioning how you feel in the moment is a good stepping stone for further discussion.

Who can you talk to?
When talking about mental health, it’s easiest to talk to people you trust. Friends, family or colleagues can be the easiest people to approach for a chat when you need it. Sometimes talking is easier when you have something you can do to take the pressure off.
I find starting a conversation while walking, making a coffee, cooking or some other simple activity helps.
However, it’s important to remember that some people cannot seek support from family or colleagues. In situations like these there are still people you can turn to!
Dorset Mind offers 1-2-1 services such as counselling and mentoring. There are also wellbeing groups, where talking and making connections is encouraged to build a sense of belonging and self-confidence. Visit the website dorsetmind.uk for more information.

How can you help people who need to talk?
If you aren’t struggling with your own mental health but would like to support those who are, there are definitely ways you can help.
If you think someone is showing signs of struggle, ask how they’re really feeling; and ask twice because the first time you’ll likely get an automatic ‘I’m OK.’
Politely asking if someone would like to talk and if they’re really OK might be the push they need. If someone does open up, listen to what they’re saying. Asking questions is a great way of proving that you’re listening, and it will help to dispel assumptions about certain mental illnesses.

If you need emotional support, call the Samaritans FREE on 116 123, at any time.
Dorset residents or visitors can also call Dorset’s Connection Helpline on NHS 111 or 0800 652 0190
If phone calls aren’t your thing, text SHOUT to 85258.
If you’re having a crisis, it’s important to get help as soon as possible. If you’re in a mental health crisis and need urgent help, call 999 or head to your nearest A&E if you can do so safely.

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