It’s estimated that one in four adults will experience a mental health problem in any given year. Despite this, there remains a stigma attached to opening up and speaking about our mental wellbeing.
Today, we’re marking Time to Talk Day, encouraging us all to have a conversation about how we’re feeling. We asked four experts at IGHI about their experiences, insights and advice on speaking up about mental health.
Who do you talk to when you need to open up?
“I’m a Mental Health First Aider at Imperial and think initiatives like Shout are particularly useful for people who prefer to write things down than to chat in person. I’m more of an ’in-person chatter’.
“Speaking about stress with close colleagues and friends can help me get things off my chest and come up with solutions to manage it. Also, if I’m feeling symptoms of anxiety, like when I’m worried about presenting or feel like I’m letting someone down, I say (actually out loud) to myself: “Come on Anna, you can do this!”
Patient and Public Engagement Lead, IGHI
Why is it important to talk more openly about mental health?
“I think there is still a pervasive culture within society, particularly among men, that it’s a sign of weakness to open up and reach out for help. We need to continue to spread awareness around mental health and normalise the fact that there are times when we all find it difficult to manage stress and cope with everyday demands.
“As a Mental Health First Aider for the College, I’ve found that a simple act of actively listening to someone talk through their situation can have a hugely positive impact.”
Dr Steve McAteer
Research Manager, IGHI
How can talking about mental health benefit us?
“Talking about mental health with people we trust can be liberating and empowering, as we can see there are many people who will accept and care about us just as we are. It takes courage and the right opportunity, but talking openly about mental health shows there is strength in vulnerability. It allows for genuine connections that highlight we are not alone – whatever we are going through. We can learn from others who have ‘been there before’ to see there is genuine cause for hope.
“The more people talk, the more we can break the cycle of stigma around speaking up about mental health. It’s not about having the right words, but being there for each other that matters.”
Dr Emma Lawrance
Mental Health Innovations Fellow, IGHI
What can we do to encourage more people to talk about mental health?
“I think we need to get the message across that everyone has mental health. Normalising mental health, like we do our physical health can help reduce stigma and encourage people to talk about problems earlier on.
“One way to help challenge this is for public figures to speak openly about their own mental health difficulties. We’re currently working with The Mind Map to hold an event where well-known musicians and sports personalities will be interviewed about their mental health in front of an audience of young people. We hope this can encourage more conversations about mental health and wellbeing.”