Carrie: Bringing mental health into conversation
In this film Carrie explains how she brings mental health into the conversation using her dog, Troy.
If you are speaking about your experience then you own it, you are going to know how you felt and what you went through - there is no right or wrong thing to say, it's your own experience. Remember, also, you are part of 1000's of people taking part in chatting about mental health so in fact you're great!
Things to consider before speaking out
Think about what you're comfortable with telling people. Are there any parts of your story that feel painful or vulnerable that you might not want to tell people about at the moment? If you’re unsure about what to share, think about how you would manage if someone reacted badly to personal information you shared. It’s not likely to happen but it is possible, so you should think about that when you are deciding which parts of your personal experience you are prepared to share.
Only open up and discuss what your happy about - it is your experience so you can speak about anything you want and the content is up to you.
Think about who you are talking to and what you might like to share with that person.
Sometimes a conversation can involve personal stuff so to make it more comfortable make sure who you're talking to knows that what you are sharing with them is between you and them - it's called a "nothing about me without me" chat. It is confidential unless you give permission to share certain things.
Think about why you are sharing. Remember that speaking out is about changing the way someone thinks about mental health by sharing some parts of your story. While you might also want to get support for your mental health, speaking out is about changing attitudes. This is done by sharing some information that helps the other person understand that you have a mental health problem,when they didn't already know this, so that they can see that we are people just like them.
We can change the way people around us think and act about mental health every day. You don’t need to wait for other people to talk about mental health – you can bring it into the conversation yourself. This can help people around you to open up to mental health by seeing it as an everyday topic that’s OK to talk about.
If you do feel ready and able to open up to people about your personal mental health experiences, you could think about doing this:
- At places you visit socially or groups you're a part of
- On public transport or in taxis
- When you are out in your community
- Where you work or study
- At the gym or classes you go to
- At places you spend time with your family and friends
Always be comfortable when having your conversation - perhaps with comfy seats, a nice cuppa and biscuits. Make sure if the conversation gets a bit tough you can have a time out or end the conversation there and then.
Ways to get the conversation started:
- Speak about your own experience – bring up parts of your experience naturally in conversation e.g. if someone is talking about the weather you could mention how the weather affects your mental health.
- Try not to hide things as often – if someone is talking about something that reminds you of part of your mental health story, but you don’t mention it, think about whether you could say something about it anyway. Be careful to only say what you feel safe sharing.
- Talk about being a Time to Change Champion – a great way to bring mental health into the conversation is to mention that you are a Time to Change Champion e.g. if someone asks what you did at the weekend, you could say you read the Time to Change website and that you are a Champion. This might help you to mention something about your experience of mental health problems.
- Be honest about your feelings – if you're struggling, think about whether you would feel OK to tell people about it. This could help mental health to become a normal part of the conversation. Make sure you only do this if it feels OK for you with the person you’re talking to and don't make yourself vulnerable.I am now experienced in chatting about mental health but I still get butterflies before hand and also my head can be at times tired or upset so I always look after me first and you should too!
If it helps, like with me, write down some points to help you. This can aid you if the chat goes flat or if your experience is a tough one try to mix your conversation with some light relief chat about hobbies or what you did the previous day or even speak about your favourite food. It helps to break up the conversation with other things.