Two people talking while getting a coffee

Mental health: let’s talk about it.

Time to Talk Day on February 6th is encouraging us all to widen the conversation about mental health. Talking about mental health can be difficult. But starting a conversation doesn’t have to be awkward and being there for someone can make a huge difference.

Editor Jane Garton looks at how to get the conversation started.

1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health problem this year.

Close up of woman in black and white looking sad and anxious

Whether it’s depression, bi-polar disorder, OCD, eating disorders, anxiety, a combination of the above, or something else entirely, there is no escaping the fact that this is a worrying statistic. But perhaps it is not that surprising given the state of the economy, the impending climate problem and the nagging pressures of social media. Add to these the financial problems, family pressures and job insecurity facing many people and it becomes easier to understand.

Yet despite the number of people affected many are still reluctant to admit they have a problem, preferring to keep it to themselves. The reason? A certain stigma still surrounds mental health with many people too frightened to talk about them for fear of appearing weak, or not being able to cope, or because they think they won’t be taken seriously by health professionals.

Why sharing is so important

Group of people having a conversation

Keeping silent is one of the worst things people can do.  Rather than a sign of weakness, sharing a problem can show strength and finding the right support is often the first step towards finding a solution. And the good news is there is plenty of help out there with resources growing as the conversation around mental health becomes more mainstream.

There are plenty of ways to open the conversation and this year’s Time to Talk Day on Feb 6th is the ideal time to start.  There is no right or wrong way to go about it but if you feel a friend or colleague may need help the following tips may help.

Ask and listen

A jar filled with postits with question marks on to represent asking questions

Asking questions can encourage someone to open up about their feelings and what they’re going through. It can also help you to understand what’s going on. Try to ask questions that are open rather than leading or judgemental – such as ‘how does that affect you?’ or ‘what does it feel like?’

Pick your time

Two friends talking and walking in a park

It is sometimes easier to talk side by side rather than face to face, for example while you are doing something else, such as walking or cooking or making a cup of coffee.

Don’t try and fix it

One man talking whilst the other one listens over a coffee

Offering solutions is not always helpful. Just talking can really help, so unless someone asks you for advice just let them talk and listen to what they have to say.

Treat them the same

Two friends having fun with one holding up a camera in front of the other one's face so she can see the view

Remember someone with a mental health problem is still the same person as they were before and they don’t want to be treated any differently, so carry on doing the things you did before.

Be patient

Two women - one talking whilst the other one looks impatient

Some people might not be ready to talk about what they’re going through, but the fact that you’ve tried to talk to them may make it easier for them to open up another time. There are lots of other things you can do to support them apart from talking such as planning to do things together, sending a text to let them know you’re thinking of them or offering to help with day-to-day tasks.

Supplement it

ST John's Wort flower with bright blue sky background

Many find complementary therapies helpful. Some, such as massage, use physical touch to help with emotions while others, such as meditation and yoga, are very calming. Herbal remedies such as St John’s wort, often known as the sunshine supplement, can also help to lift the spirits. Meanwhile, studies show that 5-HTP supplements have a positive effect on low mood and alleviating depression.

Time to Talk Day on February 6th is encouraging us all to widen the conversation about mental health. To find out more visit their website.


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