Why and how you can start the important conversation about mental health.
As we start another difficult year it’s time to start thinking about how we’re going to live our lives in 2022. While some may carry on as normal, I want to continue to encourage the important conversation about mental health.
We’ve come a long way in regards to recognising and treating mental illness. 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. But sadly health care for mental health has taken a big hit in the time of COVID-19. It was struggling before, but now waiting lists are far exceeding that of two years. I’ve heard stories of lackluster crisis care teams, unempathetic doctors, and generally negative attitudes towards mental health patients. Yet, COVID-19 has caused a significant influx in patients who are experiencing anxiety, panic disorders, depression, eating disorders, and many other mental health issues.
With the demand higher than ever, now is the time to stand up and shout about mental health from the rooftops. Rest assured, even if it helps just one person, you’ve done your job as an advocate.
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, 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 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.
*These stats are prior to COVID-19, and the utter shambles of health care that has presented from it. Numbers are far higher now, however, a consistent report can not be found.
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.
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.
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.”
Have you any other ideas on how you would start the conversation?
I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments! Or you can drop me a line on Twitter or through the contact form available at the top of this page.
Thank you all for reading and for your ongoing support over the last few years. The blog has gone through several changes in regards to layouts, content, and even how we handle our social channels. It’s been a real journey and one I couldn’t imagine would have worked without the support of my readers. If you’d like to get involved with the blog I’m always on the lookout for written articles and even advertisers! Just get in touch to book.
Taking care of ones health is really important and must be prioritize. Helpful insights you shared.
We need more sunlight, more candor, and more unashamed conversations about mental health
I think this is a brilliant article, Chloe. I have been owning my mental health struggles with family and friends because I am no longer feeling like I should hide it. I struggle, as do most of us, and feeling like I shouldn’t share my struggle is just not good anymore. Sometimes it’s not only good for offloading or releasing some of that tension, but I have seen a lot more openness and mindfulness towards my feelings from people I would have never expected it.
Thank you for sharing this important information. We need to talk about the importance of mental health. My friend attempted suicide in December, thankfully she survived. She has been struggling with depression for over 20 years and has been on numerous medications.
Great tips. Starting the conversation is so important and a must!
These are all really great tips! Thanks for sharing this very important topic to us this is so informative!
Im such an advocate of Mental health especially for women. We need to talk more about it.
I love your advice about owning it. It’s not something be ashamed of. We need to be more open and talk about more mental health
I agree with you. Mental health need to be discussed more often. COVID disrupted lives and made everything worse.
Therapy was something that I swore I would never do. But I took the leap and made an appointment and it was honestly one of the best decisions I have ever made. Suffering in silence is not something that anyone should ever have to do let alone put themselves through it.
Thank you for those amazing tips, and I’m happy to see that people start talking about this topic of “mental health” because now a lot of people suffer from depression and they don’t know about this until it starts to be worse. so my advice to people is to start thinking about their mental health.
Important to talk about mental health and remove the stigma attached to certain MH conditions. This was such a thought provoking article
Being comfortable speaking about mental health is extremely important. We need to take the stigma away and allow people to share openly and honestly. And this way they can feel supported supported
You are right that we need to check in with people.
I love the approaches you suggested. Mental health is of major importance and not an easy subject for someone to open up about it. A close friend of mine went through really hard times because she refused to talk about what she was going through. When I had some anxiety issues talking with people who dealt with similar experiences helped me to open up.
Those are some great tips to keep in mind and talking about mental health is actually important but one of the hardest topics to open up to. People have different ways of coping up but it would be nice to have someone there for you.
I really liked reading this and I can personally say how tough it is to talk to someone about how they’re really doing. Maybe its because we’re not the right people they should be talking to? Another thing that works for me is getting people to open up via chat? Some just express more when they’re not confronted face to face.
Yyyeeesssssss, Nyxie! Now, that is how it is done….without feeling ashamed or guilty! We must have more of these conversations this year!
These are great and helpful tips. I am glad how easy to talk about mental health nowadays. Thank you!
Im a mental health advocate myself and I have been doing talks about self care ever since the pandemic started. People tend to provide canned responses when asked if they are fine so being to make people comfortable about talking about their mental health can be tough at first but when they see your sincerity then they would slowly open up and peel of their layers.
I am glad that mental health is becoming something that is more openly discussed. It shouldn’t be a taboo subject and we should all be open to having a productive conversation.
Great tips. we definitely need to make mental health part of our daily conversation. Thank you for sharing!
This is really a very important topic that should be addressed. Mental health is a serious condition but not everyone is really open to discuss it. Sometimes it can be decieving too.. and you can hardly tell someone if they are depressed or not.. that’s why if you do not know how to read signs, the best way you can do is to be nice to everyone.. also simple gestures like asking if they are okay can be a great help to them as it makes them feel they are being valued. Thank you for addressing this topic
These are fantastic suggestions for someone who wants to discuss their mental health openly with loved ones or others. Thank you so much for sharing this post here, I think it will be super helpful x
Mental health is something we should talk more about with friends and family. We gotta take care of our mental health. Talking and sharing your mental health is great you never know someone might be experiencing the same
Mental health is something we don’t talk about much especially in my family but it’s important. Thanks for sharing these tips
Indeed a great post. Mental health is very important topic these days. We should encourage people to share their mental health with the people they are close to. We should be compassionate with people who are suffering from any mental health problems.
As an adult or at least all of my twenties I suffered in silence. I didn’t want to claim it but now in my thirties I do and I am seeking treatment and help for my mental health. It was definitely a step in the right direction for me. Don’t get me wrong I still have very uncomfortable moments with my therapist but I know that it is for the best and my progress in at least maintaining well being. Great post.
I love this! Its so important to make mental health a part of everyday conversations.
Thank you so much for sharing this resource! It’s important to have open conversations about mental health, but it can be hard to know where to start.
So many people comment on how important it is to open dialogue about mental health, but it really shouldn’t be underestimated. I don’t have a massive amount of friends, but even if I did I think I would struggle asking questions about mental health without it feeling “forced”, so I am glad there are articles such as this to help us strip it back a little. It should be a natural thing to talk about, no matter how difficult some of the themes are! Really insightful post as always.
Thank you for writing about this. We need to have more conversations about mental health, the importance of it, and how we can help people with mental health illnesses.
This is great. I hate that there is still such a BIG stigma to overcome when it comes to mental health. You wouldn’t dream of saying some of the things that are commonly heard by those living with mental illness to someone dealing with a physical illness! Whether you’re battling cancer or depression, it’s a medical condition and we need to reach a point where they are viewed with the same level of seriousness.
Thank you so much for reading. I love this shirt! I’m always wearing it lately.
The very reason why I somehow tell people on social media not to post too much negativity is because I know that some people are struggling with mental health issues. Like anxiety or panic attacks. By the way, I dig that black shirt plus it’s positive symbol.
Thank you so much 😀
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.
Thank you so much for reading! They are a great clothing brand and the owner is lovely! 😀
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.
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
Thank you so much for stopping in and commenting. It’s a terrible thing that so many are silenced by stigma.
Thank you so much for both reading and leaving a wee comment. Much appreciated. x
No there certainly isn’t.
Thank you for stopping in and commenting.x
Thank you so much for stopping in and reading! 😀
I couldn’t agree more. It’s important to talk about the topic of mental health.
I’m glad there is awareness about mh in some areas but there isn’t the funding to go with it.
This is so important. We need to end the stigma. No one chooses to have a mental illness. It’s just like any other illness, and seeking treatment should be celebrated.
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.
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.
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.
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!
This is SO important. I’m always triple checking to make sure my friends are okay.
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!!
A important aspect of mental health is supporting and being patient with one another.
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!
Thank you so much for stopping in and reading.x
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
That’s a great policy. I hope to be like that one day with my kids.
Thank you so much for stopping in and reading. x
Thank you so much for reading. It certainly needs to be discussed more openly going forward into the new decade.
Thank you so much. x
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.
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
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.
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
Thank you so much for reading. I’m glad you enjoyed, and I wholeheartedly agree with you!
Thank you so much for reading! I really appreciate your support and I’m so pleased that you enjoyed this article.
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
It certainly is which is so frustrating. Thank you so much for stopping in and reading. x
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
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.
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
Thank you so much for reading 😀 x
We certainly do need to open up more about it. Thank you so much for reading. x
Thank you so, so much for stopping in and reading. x
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.
Thank you so much for stopping in and reading. I really appreciate it 🙂 x
These are all great tips. I agree with the part about being afraid the the future. That’s definitely me. Honestly it does help to know I’m not alone. So talking about it and ending that stigma really is important.
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.
Talking about mentalhealth is so important! I love that you’re writing articles like these.
Mental health is a topic that many are not paying attention to until they have a love one involved. We do need to talk about it more.
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.
Brilliant post! I think you’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
Agreed 100%. It’s not talked about enough. For men I think it’s almost a taboo subject but I am glad there is some conversation now.
Mental health is just something most people neglect until it is too late. I recently made a big change in life that improved my mental health 10 fold!
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.
I agree with you Nyxinked.
Mental Wellness is a privilege especially if you have the proper resources and environment to manage it!
keep talking about it, the more we talk about it the less it becomes a taboo!
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.
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! 🙂
No one truly understands mental health until you’ve experienced it. I’m glad that there are more information about this topic out there now! Great post.
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.
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.
I believe it is alot easier to talk about mental health. Years ago it was a nono subject but not anymore.
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.
Good to know that mental health is being embraced as it should be. Very good write up.
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.
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
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.
Many of the women in my family, including myself have suffered from depression so these tips are helpful.
These are great tips! Many of women in my family, including me, have suffered with depression.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
I think people are too busy and that may be a reason for more depression cases. We need to talk more about mental health and not sweep it under the rug
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.
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!