20 January 2014

Every little helps

Today marks the launch of Time to Change's new national advertising campaign, with its message that, for people with mental health problems, 'It's the little things you do that can make a big difference.'

When they say 'little', they mean little: sending someone a text, giving them a call, or inviting them over for coffee and a chat. 

For many, though, that is harder to do than it sounds.

People often find it difficult to know what to say to someone with a mental health problem, so they don't say anything at all. Yet they wouldn't hesitate in the face of a physical illness. If a friend or colleague had undergone an operation, broken their leg or were even just recovering from a cold, they'd ask how they were. Why not when it's a mental illness?

Time to Change's work is focussed on ending the stigma and discrimination faced by people with mental health conditions.

Their latest survey into levels of discrimination revealed an increase in the year to 2012, with 9 out of 10 questioned reporting that they'd experienced this.

Image courtesy of Time to Change
In contrast, their survey of public attitudes towards mental illness showed a small improvement over a four-year period; prior to that the trend had actually been in the opposite direction.

Time to Change's research has shown that: 'Social contact, or knowing someone who is open about having a mental health problem, has a clear and positive impact on public attitudes and behaviour.'

So, talking about these issues helps.

The same survey revealed that nearly two-thirds of people knew someone with a mental health problem. 

In reality, I'm sure we all know somebody - we just don't necessarily know it yet. Sometimes, perhaps, neither do they, if the problem has not yet been formally diagnosed. They may be suffering in silence, unaware of what is wrong with them, or that help is available.

It's surprising how many people mention their own mental health difficulties, as soon as I tell them I have OCD. Often these are close acquaintances, yet I had no idea of their problems - just as they had no idea about mine! There is still so much shame, embarrassment and secrecy around illnesses of the mind.

As part of Time to Change's new campaign, they've nominated Thursday 6 February as the first Time to Talk Day. Their aim is to encourage conversations about mental health to take place on that date, to show that these problems are common, and that talking about them doesn't have to be hard.

Why not check out their website and see how you can help? I plan to use my action pack to spread the word at work.

And don't worry if you're reading this outside of the UK - there's no reason why we can't turn this campaign global!
Image courtesy of Time to Change


Tina Fariss Barbour said...

I agree that talking about mental illness, especially personal stories, can have a positive effect on the stigma. Thanks for telling us about this campaign!

Anonymous said...

I've had similar experiences. When it comes up in conversation that my son has OCD, people I have known, often for many years, will tell me about their own mental health struggles, or those of their family members. As you say, we ALL know people who struggle with these issues, even if we think we don't. Great post and I plan on blogging about the Time to Change upcoming campaign.

Helen Barbour said...

Tina, thank you for your comment and for all you do yourself in spreading the word about mental illness.

Helen Barbour said...

ocdtalk, thanks for your comment and thanks also for blogging about the campaign and sharing Time to Change's work from Stateside.

71ยบ & Sunny said...

I just discovered your blog! How did I not know that you existed??

Anyway, great post. I came out with my OCD pretty publicly in the last couple of years. I have found that so many people have shared their struggles with me after I approached them about mine. The best part is that they don't treat me differently after knowing!

Hey, one person at a time and we end the stigma.

Helen Barbour said...

Hi Sunny, I'm glad you've found my blog...welcome! Thanks for the positive feedback and it's great that you feel able to speak about your OCD, too. As you say, every little helps.