New figures released on Time to Talk Day show that 43% of respondents believe that their support system has shrunk due to not being able to meet and talk face-to-face, whereas 41% of people feel that it is because they’re afraid of feeling like a burden by sharing their problems to others. However, 30% of respondents feel that their shrinking support system is caused by being isolated from their friends and family. 

Rosie Moore, 24, from Cardiff, explains how lockdown has impacted on her mental health: “Due to my depression, anxiety and OCD, my instinct is to isolate and protect myself from whatever causes my mental health to deteriorate, which can lead me to withdraw from my family and friends. I worry that even when we are all vaccinated and the pandemic is over, I won't return to my old level of functioning, and it will always feel unsafe for me to leave the house. 

On top of this, one of my main symptoms is intrusive thoughts, where I am plagued by distressing mental images and feelings that something bad will happen to me or to my loved ones. This way of thinking has worsened due to the pandemic as I’ve lost both of my grandparents to COVID-19 last summer. They died within weeks of each other, and the process of them both going into hospital and not being able to see them was very upsetting.

Lockdown for me has been really isolating and lonely. Even though I try and take every opportunity to catch up with my family and friends on FaceTime, I find it difficult to talk to them about my mental health online as opposed to face-to-face. It also feels harder to open up with each lockdown. People don’t really notice you are suffering on social media.”

Worryingly, the survey has also found that 1 in 5 of those in work or studying in Wales have not taken any time off for their mental health, even though they felt they needed to. These concerning findings reinforces our message of the importance to talk openly about mental health. 

Alex Osborne, 30, from Caerphilly, has experienced anxiety when applying for jobs during the pandemic: “I had to shield at the start of the first lockdown, which coincided with my employment contract coming to an end. I felt very low to be out of work, though due to the great weather we were having at the time, I was able to spend 3 months gardening, which greatly helped reduce my anxiety. However, it was important for me to get back out there and start looking for work. 

As I was job hunting and attending interviews, I noticed how some organisations questioned if I should be working during the pandemic as I was deemed clinically vulnerable. This skyrocketed my anxiety as I felt they were repeating public thoughts that I should lock myself away. Fortunately, I have now found a meaningful job where they are really understanding towards my needs and have supported me throughout my time there so far.

Mental health problems can affect one in four of us, so it’s important to be able to talk about it. Time to Change Wales’ survey has also discovered that talking openly about mental health makes a positive difference, with 9 in 10 feeling very or somewhat supported when they have spoken to someone about their mental health.

Time to Talk Day is an annual event in the UK that encourages everyone to be more open about mental health – to talk, to listen, to make a difference. We want to get everyone in Wales to challenge mental health stigma and to be openly talking about it.

This year’s theme is focused on the power of small — because however you have a conversation about mental health – whether it’s a quick message to a friend or colleague, a virtual coffee morning or a socially distanced walk and talk – it has the power to make a big difference.

Time to Change Wales has also partnered up with Ramblers Cymru to amplify the combined message of taking care of your mental wellbeing and physical health by walking and talking. Sometimes it’s easier to have a conversation about mental health whilst doing something active such as walking in a local park.

Angela Charlton, Director of Ramblers Cymru said: “Being physically active, connecting with nature and other people are all things which have been shown to have a positive impact on mental health and wellbeing. Walking is also a perfect way to create space for a conversation with others and opening up. So why not take some time to discover the local green spaces and nature on your doorsteps and ask each other how we are really doing?” 

Lowri Wyn Jones, Programme Manager for Time to Change Wales said: “The last year has been hard and it’s perhaps made more people realise that we can all struggle with our mental health at times. Too many of us are made to feel isolated, worthless and ashamed because of this. Let’s take this opportunity to ensure that we all feel comfortable talking about mental health.

It’s easy to think we haven’t got the power to make a change. But lots of ‘small’ conversations can add up to a big difference in tackling the stigma and discrimination too many people still experience because of their mental health. So, this Time to Talk Day, play your part - send a text, reach out, have a conversation. It’s a chance for all of us to be more open about mental health.”

To encourage supportive conversations about mental health, Time to Change Wales has compiled some helpful tips for anyone who wants to check in with a loved one on Time to Talk Day. 

  1. Ask questions and listen; “How does it affect you?” or “What does it feel like?”
  2. Think about the time and place; sometimes it’s easier to talk side-by-side. Try chatting while doing something else, like walking.
  3. Don’t try and fix it; resist the urge to offer quick fixes, often listening is enough.

On Thursday 4 February, workplaces and individuals in Wales are set to take part in Time to Talk Day. In light of the current restrictions on our lives, many Time to Talk Day activities will be taking place virtually this year. For information on how to get involved in Time to Talk Day please visit: https://www.timetochangewales.org.uk/en/campaigns/timetotalkday/

Join in the conversation online using the hashtag #timetotalk on: 

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