It’s good to talk!
Talking about my depression, anxiety and everything that comes with it has helped me in a number of ways.
8th October 2013, 3.59pm | Written by Mark Smith
I’m sure Bob Hoskins won’t mind me using his famous catchphrase from the 80s BT ad, as I use it in reference to mental health.
Talking about my depression, anxiety and everything that comes with it has helped me in a number of ways. When I was first diagnosed, I didn’t know what to do or who to tell and more importantly what to tell them. For me, it felt like I was ‘coming out’ about having a mental health problem.
One of the first people that I told was my boss at the time. Now, the office isn’t necessarily the easiest place to talk about depression but I felt it was something I had to do in case it started to affect my work. I struck lucky – after opening up to my boss, he told me that he had suffered something similar and said he would prefer to have me operating at 80% than most other people operating at 100%. Years on from that day, his words still fill me with pride and help me to realise that you can talk about depression in work and that it doesn’t have to be a barrier to employment or furthering your career prospects. Of course, we don’t all have bosses as understanding as the one I had back then, but there is hope and there is now legislation set up to protect us.
As different people will know you in different ways, from friends to family, colleagues to Facebook, you may find that you tailor your message according to the person it’s aimed at. There are those who you may only need to tell once, there are those that you will need to keep talking to for as long as you need to. I believe that whatever the situation, talking about mental ill health is good for you. It is also good for the bigger picture of having mental health as a more socially acceptable topic of conversation in the pub, coffee shop, supermarket, on the local high street, over the fence to your neighbour. It’s nothing to be afraid of. Don’t get me wrong, there are people in my life that I have found incredibly difficult to talk to about my illness and there will be more in the future. I’m not afraid. I’m open and honest about it and it’s their problem if they can’t accept it. I’ve heard someone say that ignorance is society’s mental illness.
I believe that whatever the situation, talking about mental ill health is good for you.
Many times in the past, I have likened mental health to cancer, HIV / AIDS and homosexuality – it is the last great social taboo in existence today. As society has changed, so have attitudes to many of the aforementioned issues. They are generally easier to talk about than they were 20-30 years ago. The same cannot yet be said about mental health. Progress is being made, but there is a long way to go before mental health can be put into the same bracket. Time to Change Wales will obviously help to further that progress and I hope we’re having a very different conversation in another 20-30 years time.
Talking to ‘come out’ is just the start. As I’ve found, talking therapies such as CBT can be hugely effective in aiding your recovery and maintaining better mental health over time. For many, it will be a long, on-going effort, so even in the darkest and most difficult times try not to suffer in silence. I speak from experience having considered ending my life on more than one occasion in the past. There are many support services available now that simply didn’t exist years ago – use them, if nothing else, especially if you feel there is no-one in your immediate world to help.