The theme this year is 'conversations change lives'
With this in mind, I'd like to share why I believe it is so important to have honest conversations about mental health.
It is something that affects us all. We all have mental health needs. We don't all realise this, though. Some people still really struggle to discuss mental health difficulties openly. Maybe this is out of fear that they'll say the wrong thing and offend someone or maybe there are fears around being judged and appearing vulnerable.
I have learnt, over time, how to have these conversations; being open about my experiences, and encouraging others to be open about theirs. We can't always get it right all the time. We will make mistakes when we have these conversations, especially when we first start. Someone is bound to get upset at some point, but it is important to learn from these moments and keep trying!
Anyway, back to the point!
I started working as a mental health support and recovery worker just under 12 months ago. I was open about my own mental health from the start, which I will never regret. I am lucky that I work in an office with an open and supportive culture around mental health, I understand that not everyone has the same positive experience. Being able to discuss my mental health in the same way as I would discuss my physical health has been really helpful in getting my mental health needs met, and being supported at work. I know that the growth in my ability to talk openly about my mental health has led to a greater awareness of my own, and others, struggles and resilience. I am also really glad that I have seen my colleagues discussing their mental health, and witnessed some beautiful, compassionate conversations.
I love talking about mental health with people who don't normally get a chance to. It's good to be able to remind people that whether you have a diagnosis of a mental health difficulty, or not, you still have to look after your mental and emotional health. We all have our breaking points. Not talking about it is sure to make your breaking point arrive sooner. Tell someone that you're feeling stressed out, anxious, exhausted, sad, overwhelmed... It is not a sign of weakness. There is a certain beautiful kind of strength in recognising when we feel not so good and asking for some help.
That being said, the onus shouldn't be placed solely on the individuals needing support. Everyone has a responsibility to contribute towards a culture of acceptance and compassion around mental illness. This could be making a decision to stop using negative or stigmatising language. This may be deciding to challenge unkind comments when you hear them. It may be as simple as asking a friend or colleague 'how are you?', waiting to hear their answer and being there if they need it.