Over the last year in particular, the topic of mental health has very much been in the media spotlight. From MPs speaking out about their mental health problems in parliament to Channel 4's taboo tackling mental health season - '4 Goes Mad'. I feel like we've really started make some headway towards our goal of reaching a tipping point when mental health becomes a routine and non-judgmental topic.
However, there is still a long way to go until we can say that people with mental health problems lead discrimination free lives. In order for us remove the stigma that still plagues this very common health issue, we need more conversations and to keep this momentum going.
We've just launched a new campaign to encourage all of us to have more open conversations around the subject of mental health. Our new advert highlights the importance of staying in contact and being supportive when friends and family members experience a mental health problem.
Recent Time to Change research shows that 75% of people with a mental health problem have lost friendships, which shows that many of us still feel uncomfortable talking about something that affects one in four of us. We know that talking openly with friends is an important part of many people's lives, yet having a conversation about mental health still seems to be a difficult subject for some of us.
Due to the stigma around mental illness, many people shy away from supporting someone they know who might be experiencing one. In the same survey forty-two per cent of people admit they don't feel they know enough about mental health problems to talk to a friend going through one, and one in five worry that talking openly about it might make their friend's situation worse.
The findings highlight that despite many people knowing someone with a mental health problem, they still don't feel equipped with enough knowledge to be a supportive friend. The misconceptions that still surround those of us with mental health problems make people worry about offending or embarrassing someone, or saying or doing the wrong thing. So people avoid seeing their friends or speaking to them, when in fact these are the very things that can be helpful.
The study also reveals that 62% of British adults know someone who has experienced a mental health problem. This shows that most people will have a friend experiencing a mental health problem who might need their support. Starting a conversation could make a big difference to their lives. Although it might feel awkward or you might not fully understand mental health problems, don't let that stop you from just asking 'how they are'. Those three words could really help.
You don't have to be an expert to start a conversation about mental health. Being a supportive friend can include small gestures like sending a quick text or email, or an invitation to meet up. It's time we encouraged people to talk more openly and for mental health to stop being a part of life people are too ashamed or embarrassed to talk about.
Find out how to start your conversation today at http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/talk-about-mental-health or tweet #timetotalk.
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