male teen 17

Time to Talk

On "Time to Talk Day" the nation is being encouraged to talk about mental health. YoungMinds blogger, George Bell, shares how talking helped him.

When we suffer from a broken arm, a debilitating back condition or an illness such as flu, we’re quick to let people know so that we can take time off work and seek the necessary recovery options.

When we suffer from a mental health condition, which can sometimes be even more debilitating than a physical one, we keep it bottled up as though it were some dirty, dark secret.

I know because I kept my own struggles a secret for almost a year, which, now that I look back at it, made the whole thing so much worse. I went through various stages of justifying to myself why I didn’t need to tell anyone.

The first was “nothing is wrong.” The second was “it’s just a phase, it’ll pass.” The third was “I can deal with this myself.” The fourth, the time when I was rapidly approaching my ‘year anniversary’ of having a mental health issue, was when I realised that this wasn’t going to just go by itself.

I sought support in the form of therapy, and I still kept this quiet from everyone else around me. I eventually ended up having an important conversation with my parents, and things snowballed pretty quickly from there.

Starting a conversation

I’ll be honest, the only reason I initially had this conversation was because I’d spent all the money I had on therapy and I needed to dip into The Bank of Mum & Dad (probably the longest standing worldwide bank in history) to further fund the therapy sessions I desperately needed.

I hated talking about my mental health with them at first. None of us really understood what was going on, and we always had awkward conversations with us not really knowing what to say.

But this quickly changed. We worked together to learn and research about my condition, about the things I should and shouldn’t do, and the things that we should or shouldn’t say. The conversations with my parents ended up becoming my bedrock to recovery, and I knew that no matter what mood I was in when I walked through the door, they would handle it in the right way.

When I came home laughing and smiling, they would join in. When I came home depressed and go straight to my room, they’d give me my space. It was the things that they said to me, but also the times they learnt to say nothing, that ultimately helped to keep me on the path to recovery.

It was a daunting and awkward task first having to have these conversations with them, but let’s be honest, when are any big conversations in our lives ever easy? If they were easy, they wouldn’t be big.

Creating a support structure

Because they’re big, they need a big response. Creating a support structure around you is crucial to helping you recover. And this support network can be whoever you choose it to be. Whether it’s friends, family, teachers, therapists, or online forums such as Elefriends, you just need someone that you can vent to.

Your conversations may start off difficult, but that’s okay. This is new to you. Imagine it’s your first day of a new job, and you aren’t really sure how to handle it all. But, with time, these conversations will become vital parts of your recovery.

I look back on them now and wish I’d just started them earlier. Ultimately, recovery always takes time, but it made such a difference having a support network around me.

Since I’ve gone public about my mental health issues, I’ve had dozens of messages pour in from people, some I’ve known all my life, who have been through the same things, and it’s completely amazed me the amount of people that have been through the same thing. I think that if I’d started these conversations earlier, maybe I would have ended up talking to someone who had been in the exact same situation as me.

If you’re struggling and you don’t know where to turn, just start the conversation with someone you trust. You’ll be amazed at what a difference a few words can make.

A year on, I’m now fully recovered, and a huge part of that is down to a few conversations with people that I will always be eternally grateful to.

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