It’s not easy opening up about mental health problems. But not talking about how we feel can lead to serious consequences.

A survey carried out by NatCen Social Research and NHS Digital found that the number of people who self-harm or have suicidal thoughts is increasing. More than a fifth of people in the UK have suicidal thoughts while seven in 100 people self-harm.1

With one in four people likely to experience a mental health problem every year in the UK2, Time to Talk Day is an opportunity to get people talking and break the silence around mental health.

New data from Time to Change also found that one in three people would be put off speaking to a friend who is struggling with their mental health. Over a third of UK adults said they wouldn’t have a conversation for fear of saying the wrong thing and over a fifth of adults were worried about being rude. 3

Opening up to family and friends can help in overcoming mental health issues according to Dr David Poots, senior occupational physician at BHSF: “It can be difficult to change cultural attitudes to mental health. Having depression or anxiety can make a person feel ‘weak’ or ‘a failure’ and they try to cope even when they need help. But there is nothing wrong in needing help and talking to someone you trust, like a friend, can make a big difference. Friendships can help someone who is living with a mental health problem but also aid their recovery.

“Family can also be a great support mechanism. There is no right or wrong way to tell loved ones about how you feel. But when you do talk, feel comfortable and, most importantly, be honest, not just to your family but with yourself.

“It is really inspirational to hear from successful sportspeople like Gareth Thomas speaking about their mental health. It shows that anyone in their lifetime can have a mental health issue.”

Some studies have shown that investing in a programme to support employees’ mental health can generate up to 800% returns but Dr Poots says that the financial benefits should be far from the only motivation.4

“Employers can encourage their staff to open up about mental health by supporting mental health charities. It’s also important, and cost effective, to fund access to confidential counselling services. But above all, try to create a culture where staff feel valued and able to talk to their supervisor or line manager without fear of criticism.”


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