Jo Pinder, Wellbeing Practitioner at Cardiff University and Time to Change Wales Champion, talks about the university’s new mental health campaign - What’s on your mind? #LetsShare - encouraging us all to share more when it comes to mental health.
Mental health problems are common; one in four of us will be affected at some point in our lives. So being able to talk about mental health is something that’s important for us all. However, talking about mental health can feel difficult.
Whether its fear or awkwardness about talking about your own mental health, or nervousness about speaking to somebody you know about their mental health, being unable to talk isn’t good for anyone.
A new campaign for Cardiff University
On 1 February 2018 Cardiff University launched a new mental health campaign for students and staff: What’s on your mind? #LetsShare.
The campaign encourages us all to share more about our own mental health and to encourage other people to open up about their mental health, as a way to support ourselves, support others, and to help beat the stigma that still surrounds this area.
Speak about your own mental health
The fact that it’s sometimes difficult to talk about mental health problems can be one of the hardest parts, however many people find that talking about mental health problems – to friends, family or to professional staff – is extremely helpful, as well as being one of the best ways to help to end mental health stigma.
Take up opportunities to talk about mental health openly and honestly; choose a time and place that feels comfortable and don’t be surprised if your honesty encourages other people to talk about their own experiences!
Help others to speak about their mental health
People often avoid bringing up the subject of another person’s mental health due to fear, stigma, or worry about saying the ‘wrong thing’.
However, asking somebody directly about their mental health is one of the most helpful things you can do.
Take the lead; if you know somebody has been struggling (or even if they haven’t), don’t be afraid to ask how they are. Simply listening to what they say, without judgement, can be incredibly helpful.
Access support if you need it and encourage others to do the same
Seeking professional help is often the first step towards getting and staying well; however it can sometimes be difficult to know where to start or who to turn to.
It's common to feel unsure, and to wonder whether you should try to handle things on your own.
But it's always ok to ask for help – even if you're not sure you are experiencing a specific mental health problem.
At Cardiff University we have a wide range of flexible, specialist support services available to students and staff. Other universities may offer similar services so it’s worth checking what’s available.
Your doctor can also offer advice, support and treatment (including emergency appointments) for mental health, and visiting your GP is also a great first step.
Recognise that the language we use is important
It’s really common for words or phrases relating to mental health to be used in everyday language, for example: ‘last week was bonkers’, or ‘I’ve had a mental day’. It is also common to use words or phrases relating to mental health when this isn’t really what we mean, for example saying ‘I’m so depressed’, when we really mean ‘I’m having a bad day’.
Although this is commonplace, using jokes, words or phrases relating to mental health about yourself or about somebody else inappropriately – i.e. when you / the other person does not have a mental health condition – can minimise the very real experiences of people who live with mental health difficulties.
Inappropriate remarks or jokes can also feed mental health stigma, and the common stereotypes, myths and misunderstandings which surround certain mental health conditions.
Everyone slips up sometimes and says things without thinking, but the important thing is to learn from our mistakes; to challenge ourselves to say what we really mean and to be mindful of the way we talk about mental health.
Expect small things to make a big difference
Sometimes it’s the small things in life that mean the most to us or create the biggest difference: the ‘little big things’.
Simple, everyday gestures of support such as: keeping in touch, stopping for a chat, making a meal, inviting somebody to join you for an activity or sending a message, can make an enormous difference to somebody experiencing a mental health problem. And you don’t need to be a mental health expert to do them!
There are also ‘little big things’ we can do to self-care and support our own wellbeing, such as having an early night, keeping active, eating a healthy meal, turning off your phone for a few hours, spending time on a hobby and staying connected with friends and family.
Consider a small thing you could do today, to help somebody who is struggling with their mental health or to self-care.
Help end mental health stigma and discrimination
The #LetsShare campaign has been developed in collaboration with Time to Change Wales, a growing movement of people working to change how we all think and act about mental health.
The Time to Change Wales pledge, signed by Cardiff University in 2014 - and re-signed on 1 February 2018 to demonstrate our ongoing commitment to this work - is a public declaration that an organisation wishes to tackle mental health stigma and discrimination.
You have the power to change behaviours and attitudes. Together, we can create a community which is free from mental health stigma, fear and discrimination.
If you would like to write a blog post about your experiences of stigma or related issues, email firstname.lastname@example.org