Start a conversation about Mental Health.

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Why and how to start a conversation about mental health.

Weโ€™ve come a long way in regards to recognising and treating mental illness. No longer are we sending loved ones to asylums where they become lost and possibly abused. I like to think we’ve gotten to a place where everyone is aware of mental health and accepts it for what it is: Just another regular illness that needs to be treated.

Yet as far as we’ve come, mental health is still a widely taboo topic.

Why we need to talk about mental health.

Complete mental wellness is a privilege so few of us have. Mental Illnesses are among the most common of all illnesses with approximately 1 in 4 people experiencing a mental health issue annually. In England alone, 1 in 6 people suffer from common mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety on a weekly basis.

As I’m from Northern Ireland, situated at the top of the Emerald Isle and considered to be part of the UK, I’m no stranger to the taboo surrounding mental health. Not only are we a rather robust sort of people, but we’re traumatized by our past, present and possibly our future. We appear to operate on a ‘don’t ask/don’t tell’ basis, with a lot of people choosing to ignore mental illness rather than face it.

Currently, Northern Ireland has the highest prevalence of mental illness than anywhere else in the UK, with mortality due to psychiatric conditions 25% higher. With that in mind, only 6% of the health budget goes towards mental health treatment which is half that of England. (Prof. Siobhan O’Neill)

We need to remove the stigma, and start speaking out about the inequalities felt and suffered by those with mental illnesses.

By talking about mental illness on a more regular basis, we as a society will hopefully unveil the false notions that plague this topic. When these myths are debunked, it should help remove the stigma surrounding mental health.

It’s not going away, it’s getting worse.

The saying “I go to therapy for those in my life who won’t go to therapy” comes to mind. The younger generation has seen a distinct increase in mental illness. Before you say it, NO, it’s not due to us being ‘snowflakes’ or ‘easily offended’.

We’re tired, we’re defeated, we’re worn down and we’re fucking scared of the future that has been left for us to deal with. The percentage of mental illnesses is only going to continue to rise unless we start being open and honest with each other. And above all else, until we start being kind, compassionate and understanding, we’re going to continue to lose more and more people to suicide.

How to start talking about mental health.

Ask the question: “Are you okay?”

Sometimes all it takes is to ask a simple question. If you’ve noticed someone in the office or a close friend has started to withdraw, ask them how they’re doing.

Of course, we can all easily utter the words “Are you okay,” but are all of us actively ready to listen? Don’t just ask it because it’s a nice thing to do, be prepared for follow-through and put your listening skills to the test.

(Sorry, not sorry)

Then ask it again.

Even when asked people are inclined to say that they’re fine, even when they’re not. That’s why it’s so important to ask again, and again if needs be. But maybe not all at once. Ask again when you feel it’s appropriate, and make it clear that you’re there to listen if they want.

It can feel very uncomfortable for some people to open up, even when asked because it’s thought that “I’m Fine” is the expected response. Even saying something like, “No, really, I care. I’m here to talk if you need to.” can allow someone to feel safe enough to talk.

And even if they don’t want to talk right now, they’ll know where to go when they’re ready.

Talk about your own experience.

Sometimes when we open up about our own experience, it can encourage others to do the same. You don’t have to go into unnecessary details or anything particularly uncomfortable for you. It can even be enough to just let them know that you’ve been through something similar.

If you want to speak to someone about their own mental health, remember that not all people are comfortable speaking face to face. Some are comforted by the addition of body language and tone, but others prefer texts or emails.

You can also help a wider audience by sharing your story. Like me, there are so many others out there using a blog to talk about their experiences with mental health. People have written books, articles, produced films and, of course, written music all in relation to mental illness.

When we don’t feel alone we’re more comfortable. Above all else, we feel understood

Address the elephant in the room.

If we know someone has mental health issues or has recently returned to work or school after being off with mental illness, things can feel a bit awkward. Even if we’ve experienced mental illness ourselves, we can be stuck for what to say.

Approach them with delight to see them. Welcome them back and ask how they’re feeling. If they don’t know you’ve had issues in the past, perhaps share your own experience and let them know that they’re not alone. Even if you haven’t your own experience, let them know you’re always there to talk regardless. You don’t have to have an experience with mental illness to help someone with theirs.


Own it!

Don’t be ashamed of it. Would you be ashamed of having cancer or a broken leg? Would you stop yourself asking for time off work for food poisoning? No, or at least I’d like to think not. There’s nothing embarrassing or wrong with having a mental illness. It’s the world that’s told us otherwise.

Own it, don’t shy away from it.

“Yes, I have clinical depression. But I take my pills and do the best I can to survive. No, I’m not crazy or any other belittling term you have for me. I’m just one of a hell of a lot of people who have a mental illness.”

A great way you can ‘own it’ and motivate yourself to change is by the clothing you wear. It may sound odd, but what we choose to put on our bodies says a lot about us. When we dress well, we feel confident and self-assured. So why not couple the feeling of fresh threads with a motivational message about mental health?

Solis is a brand dedicated to motivating others to change. Each shirt is specifically designed with advocacy and ‘owning it‘ in mind. Although subtle, their clothing has meaning behind every piece.

In their own words:

” Each time you wear Solis clothing you are making a commitment to yourself to change. You’re saying enough is enough. I deserve better.Its time to say “F**k depression! I’m not going to live like this anymore”.

The shirt I’m wearing is called The Ouroboros. The Symbol depicts a dragon or a snake eating its own tail and originates from ancient Egyptian mythology.

The Ouroboros ladies shirt from Solis.

Solis describes the meaning as representing the cyclical nature of life, of death, rebirth, and regeneration. It’s such a powerful symbol because, for those of us with mental illness, Ouroboros can represent the death of our former lives, and rebirth into a new life. Although not entirely free from the burden of mental illness, with a wholesome outlook, therapy, medication, and support we are able to move forward.

Check out Solis now for statement clothing for both men & women. There are a variety of designs and colours to choose from.

What other ways can you think of to start a conversation about mental health? What do you think of the idea of using clothing to motivate us in our own recovery from mental illness?

77 thoughts on “Start a conversation about Mental Health.

  1. I am glad there are more conversations about mental health. The more there are, the more it can help many people. I like the idea of wearing clothes to help as well!

    1. Thank you! I didn’t know how it would work with the blog but it is 100% true. I’ve seen various shirts in high street stores with mental health-related logos and quotes on them. What a way to start a conversation! Who knew fashion could link back to mental health?

  2. It is a very delicate and complex speech, it is not easy to understand how to start a conversation about it even when it is important to do it, so thank you for this blog post.

    1. Thank you so much for reading. It can be a very delicate matter. For some reason as soon as I get speaking to people and I tell them what I do (Mental health writer and freelancer), they open right up. I’ve had 5 minute conversations with people who suddenly share their own story, or the story of someone close to them. Sometimes all it takes is to relate to someone in regard to mental health in order to open up.

    1. Burnout is on the rise. I look back and i see the clear signs in myself well before my breakdown. I look at my partner and I see it every day. But what can we do? Employers demand more, prices are going up without wages following? But more people need to set boundaries and respect themselves enough to protect their mental and physical health.

  3. Great article. If I didn’t have help from Vocational Rehab then I wouldn’t of been able to get help for my mental health. I don’t have insurance. I wish medical and mental health was free in the states. I feel that more people would get the help they need.

    1. I can’t believe the stories I hear about the price of both medication and health care in general. That being said, the waiting times here are shocking. Some people are waiting 8 months to a year for eating disorder treatment. Mental health is not top priority despite the a significant increase in suicide here in Northern Ireland. I leaves me wondering what is the answer? Surely there is a happy medium.

  4. In America, mental health is not as taboo as it used to be. I am glad for that. One thing that I was counseled to do is to actually pay attention to people’s body language when asking them how they are doing. You can get some pretty clear signals about how they are really doing, in spite of what they are verbally saying. Letting them know you are actively listening helps. Engagement is a big deal.

  5. I’m glad more and more people are talking about it.
    I’ve struggled with anxiety for most of my life and when I first started talking about it on my blog I was actually surprised at myself. I didn’t know I had the guts.
    These days it seems like we all need to be talking more about it.

    1. Thank you so much for reading. Never be ashamed to talk out but don’t force yourself either. I’m glad you found that inner strength, and I bet it made you feel a little better. Just a smidge!

  6. I try to be very open about my own mental health issues and sometimes it is such a STRUGGLE. People just don’t realize how hard it can be. My anxiety has been really bad lately and it’s hurting my sleep so much. I definitely need to work on keeping control of it.

    1. I’m in the same boat with my anxiety lately but I know what the trigger is and I also know it’ll be fine (or not, but I’m trying not to think about it). No one gets how crippling anxiety can be, for example it’s preventing me from driving today which makes it far more inconvenient. My sleep is the worst because of it but then I just take my medication and I’m asleep instantly. Sadly this leaves me exhausted in the morning. It’s an endless cycle!
      Thank you for stopping in and reading Krysten. x

  7. It is so important that we talk about struggles and our mental health. As a mom, I try to be open with my kids so they will be open with me especially when it comes to mental health

  8. I think it is important to discuss mental health, so many just don’t understand it so choose to ignore it! I think it is good to understand that others feel like it too, especially for younger kids. Not good to hold in your emotions.

  9. I’ve been running a business for years and I absolutely know how easy it is to set aside mental health. I would urge everyone (even those who are happy) to set an appointment with a therapist. It can do a world of good. The most important part is learning how to communicate your feelings to those around you, exactly what you discussed in the post.

    1. I think the same. Everyone should have at least 5 session with a therapist in their lifetime just to work through some deep, unsettled issues. We all have them, no shame here, and trauma is everywhere in every form. Talking about it shouldn’t be a taboo thing, in fact, it should be encouraged.
      Thank you so much for stopping in and reading.

    1. It’s certainly easier now but not by much. It’s still very much a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ subject.
      Thank you so much for stopping in and reading. x

  10. Preach! I was shocked to read that Ireland has the highest mortality rate due to psychiatric conditions. I think everyone can agree that is something worth talking about. We are facing a mental health crisis here in the US as well – we need to speak up about this, but also open our hearts and listen to others.

    1. Thank you so much for reading! I couldn’t agree more. I think we have a major issue worldwide, especially since my generation and those behind me are more aware of the issues.

  11. Here in the southern part of the Emerald Isle mental health was taboo as well but there has been so much education and awareness around the topic and illness that it is easier to have conversations around it.

    1. I’m so sorry to hear that but not surprised. It needs to be talked about more openly worldwide so we can start tackling these awful disorders from a better place.
      Thank you so much for reading and commenting. x

  12. The older I get, the more willing I become to talk about my mental health. I do it with a certain ease, while in the past I would keep everything for myself feeling ashamed of my weaknesses. So, you’re right! We need to talk about it! ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. I`m always trying to avoid this conversation somehow I don`t feel comfortable to talk about. But at this age I must say I feel more comfortable then 10 years ago, back then I would just hide and close myself for everyone.

    1. I understand because it can be very, very uncomfortable. And sometimes even I feel uncomfortable. Everyone is ready to talk in their own time, you just haven’t found a place where you’re comfortable with it yet. x

  14. There should definitely be more conversations about mental health, as even in very developed countries, such as the UK, it is still a stigma and people are afraid to talk about it.

    1. I’m glad to hear that! I’m the same although it’s been very tough. Thank you so much for stopping in and reading. The more people informed the more people I can hopefully educate. x

    1. Men are arguably worse off than any category. It’s something I want to talk more about on my blog in the future, and I have a few interviewees in mind. Thank you so much for stopping in and reading.

  15. Brilliant post! I think youโ€™re right, we have come so far but we still have a long way to go.

    If we all make it more important to talk and listen then eventually word spreads and we will all focus on it more.

    Maybe even the NHS will catch up x

    1. Thank you so much for stopping in and reading. I hope the NHS catch up soon, and then help NI out with their huge back up in mental health treatment (among other areas). x

  16. You’re absolutely right, the biggest problem with mental health is that no one talks about it! Thank you so much for the info, really great.

  17. I’m so sorry to hear suicide is on the rise where you are. I believe suicide is on the rise here in America too. My neighbor committed suicide a few years ago. She was suffering from depression. I really wish she would have gotten the help she needed.

    1. I wish the government would wake up to it and actually try to help, rather than brushing it under the mat. But, alas, they have bigger things to worry about like preventing Gay Marriage and fighting among themselves (here, anyway). Thank you so much for stopping in and reading.

  18. These are all great tips. I agree with the part about being afraid the the future. Thatโ€™s definitely me. Honestly it does help to know Iโ€™m not alone. So talking about it and ending that stigma really is important.

  19. I love this article!! The stigma around mental health is the same here in America too! Health care for the mentally ill is terrible! We need more awareness and more people to speak out! Great post!!

    1. Thank you for taking the time to comment. Communicating with our friends seems to be a running theme on this blog this month, but it works.

  20. What a great clothing brand! I love brands that carry these sorts of messages. It’s so important to keep talking about mental health, and the idea of asking twice especially is such a simple but effective thing someone can do. Thank for sharing!

  21. Mental health has to be one of the most important as it controls most other functions of the body. I wish that it was more acceptable to ask for help for those who need it the most.

    1. Thank you for stopping in and reading. I wish it were more acceptable to talk about as well, but I appear to be doing my bit. I don’t mind talking about it in public but it can be hard to do so sometimes. Especially with new people.

  22. Speak out can be easy to some but not to everybody. Talking about this sensitive issue has an annoying stigma. It would be a great help of people can better understand how important mental illness is.

    1. It’s harder for others to speak up for a variety of reasons, stigma being one prevalent one.
      Thank you so much for stopping in and commenting.x

  23. Many lives are lost because of ignorance about mental health. I can emphasize more how important this is to people. A wonderful freeing feeling of being able to lessen your burden.

  24. This is so important. We need to end the stigma. No one chooses to have a mental illness. Itโ€™s just like any other illness, and seeking treatment should be celebrated.

  25. Iโ€™m glad there is awareness about mh in some areas but there isnโ€™t the funding to go with it.

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