The Importance of Talking
On Time To Talk Day, Ben, a member of our Youth Panel, writes about why we all need to be talking about young people’s mental health.
Time To Talk
Thursday 1 February is Time To Change's 'Time To Talk' day. Ben is spreading the word, encouraging us that mental health is something we can all talk about.
In Britain today, mental health gets a lot more media attention then when I was growing up. Far more people have a basic understanding of mental health conditions but we often forget about the importance of the conversations we have with each other.
Despite a greater basic knowledge of mental health, misconceptions about mental health are still rife amongst society and are particularly prevalent amongst young people. According to data collected by Time To Change, 65% of young people with mental illnesses faced stigma from their friends while 50% reported receiving stigma from their parents.
The same report also highlights the effects this can have not only on our mental health, but on the rest of our lives as well. 50% of respondents said the stigma they had received or the fear of negative reactions had prevented them from applying for a job, with 30% saying it had prevented them from applying for or taking up a place at university. Meanwhile, 28% said the reactions of other people had made them want to give up on life. To have these effects, not from health conditions themselves but from the way they are viewed in our society, is truly horrible.
As a teenager one of my biggest fears was having people find out about how I was feeling. At school I faced bullying on a daily basis, at home I stayed inside every day and spent every night thinking about death. No teacher ever asked me how I was feeling and it seemed no amount of bullying or self-isolation mattered so long as it didn’t affect my grades.
Had someone spoken to me about mental health then maybe I would have got help sooner. Maybe the depression and social anxiety I’ve had from then wouldn’t have lasted so long. Maybe I would have learnt coping strategies and been able to finish university. Maybe I wouldn’t have spent most of a decade feeling alone.
A conversation about mental health felt so far off to me back then, and it’s something I feel is not far off for teenagers today. Whether by sharing a personal experience of mental illness or just by letting someone know you care about them - we can help make a society where you don’t have to feel bad about mental illness simply by having conversations.
If you are findings things difficult, have a look at our Guide To Support for steps you can take to get help.