Time To Talk Day 2020 – Talking About Mental Health
Time To Talk Day 2020 was on February 6th 2020 and is an annual event designed to encourage people to get talking about mental health issues as part of ending mental health discrimination. The organisers want everyone to be more open about mental health and to talk and listen about all things mental health.
I’m sure we all agree it’s a worthwhile aim to challenge the stigma that can still pervade around mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. And certainly your mental health should be up there on a par with your physical health, in terms of both keeping healthy and seeking help when things are tougher.
And whilst I hear from clients many stories of supportive employers, partners, families and friends, there are those who still don’t get it when it comes to mental health issues and the impact they can have on you.
Mental Health Stigma
Only last year I wrote about mental health stigma based on the research evidence that is available (read the full article here: Does Mental Health Stigma Stop People Seeking Help?)
Robinson et al (2019) used Twitter to investigate stigmatising and trivialising attitudes across a range of mental and physical health conditions and found that overall, mental health conditions were more stigmatised and trivialised compared to physical conditions. Clearly the need for mental health awareness and education is still a high priority, particularly if individuals are, even in this day and age, still enduring discrimination or having their issues trivialised and not taken as seriously as they should be.
That study concluded that “stigma and trivialisation are highly prevalent on social media and that, as an ever-greater proportion of social interaction takes place online, proactive campaigns should consider assessing and addressing both on social media platforms.”
Mental Health Help Seeking
So there is some evidence that stigma and trivialisation of mental health issues does still take place. And if it occurs in social media then it will likely be a broader issue as well.
Thus this evidence tends to support the fact that there does still exists a level of stigma and mental health discrimination, at least in some quarters (although we can all hope that more and more people are developing an understanding of mental health issues and are being more supportive and empathetic in what they say and do).
Linked to this, a 2015 review by Clement et al looked at whether mental health stigma was a barrier to people seeking help. Drawing upon 144 studies involving over ninety thousand participants, they concluded that stigma has a ‘small to moderate sized negative effect on help seeking’ for mental health problems. Stigma was found to be a moderately important barrier and ranked fourth out of ten barriers in this study, with disclosure and confidentiality concerns being the most prominent type of barrier.
Another barrier to help seeking for mental issues can be that people want to try and handle the problem on their own or may not perceive the need for help. This means that any campaign that highlights ways people can help themselves with issues such as anxiety or depression can reduce the barrier to recovery. And any steps that highlight how mental health issues can affect every one of us, and the signs and symptoms, can help people who are otherwise struggling to recognise that they may need some help and support. Hand in hand with this, of course, is making sure that people can get effective and adequate help once they perceive the need.
The 2015 research suggested that “anti-stigma programmes, services and practitioners should focus on countering stereotypes (particularly weakness and ‘craziness’), social judgment and rejection of people with mental health problems, employment discrimination; and shame/embarrassment.”
And certainly I think that the Time To Talk programme covers some of these suggestions. It is important that you know that mental health issues can affect all of us at times in our life, and that all the evidence suggests that whether you are aware of it or not, in your work and social circle there are very likely people who have or who are struggling with their mental health. The old adage about being kind to others because you don’t know what they are going through certainly springs to mind.
A campaign that seeks to counter stereotypes and to end any unnecessary shame or embarrassment is to be welcomed and encouraged.
Of course, I do think that there seems to be a current pressure on those with mental health issues to talk about it with others. And if you want to talk then I hope there are supportive people around you that you can talk to and that getting it out of your head and talking to them helps you. If you are more private and would rather not talk about your mental health (in the same way you may not want to talk about aspects of your physical health), then I hope that is respected and that you do seek out professional help from your doctor or a trained professional.
Sometimes just getting all those thoughts and feelings out of your head can help you to start to tackle them and feel better (although I haven’t been able to find any scientific research into this).
However, sometimes just talking to a friend or well meaning volunteer is not enough to improve your mental health. Hopefully one day the end of mental health discrimination will also mean that you can get mental health help much more readily and quickly, and from trained professionals, which is rarely the case these days.
If you are struggling with an issue such as anxiety or depression then please do seek out appropriate support. And I hope that you do find yourself feeling a lot better very soon.
To your success,
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Robinson, P., Turk, D., Jilka, S. et al. Measuring attitudes towards mental health using social media: investigating stigma and trivialisation. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol (2019) 54: 51. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00127-018-1571-5
Clement, S., Schauman, O., Graham, T., Maggioni, F., Evans-Lacko, S., Bezborodovs, N., Thornicroft, G. (2015). What is the impact of mental health-related stigma on help-seeking? A systematic review of quantitative and qualitative studies. Psychological Medicine, 45(1), 11-27. doi:10.1017/S0033291714000129