Wednesday 31 January 2018

It's Time to Talk

Lucy shares her experience of being a peer support facilitator and highlights how the simple act of conversation can help change people's lives.

I believe that one of the biggest struggles when it comes to mental health is the stigma that surrounds it. It can cause a fear of talking to your friends and family due to feeling embarrassed, ashamed, or being unsure of how they are going to react. This as a result feeds into a continuous cycle of isolation.

Time to Talk is a day used to highlight the importance of talking openly about mental health. Just a simple conversation and a listening ear can make such a difference to the way a person feels about their mental health, and eliminate the previous stigmatised views. The more open we are and the more willing we are to talk, the bigger change we can begin to make on people's lives.

At University, I volunteer as a peer support facilitator for Student Minds. We run support groups for fellow students who are suffering with mental health difficulties. The aim of these groups isn't for us to hand out a diagnosis or provide any sort of counselling but instead, it is to provide support and a safe place for people to come and talk about their difficulties. Taking part in this volunteering has opened my eyes to how beneficial the simple act of talking can be. Having somewhere to go where you can freely discuss how you feel, and have people listen to you, can make such a positive impact on a person's life.

While running these support groups, we receive feedback from those who attend. They have expressed to us that it's great to know they have somewhere to turn when they have felt most alone. Some people explained that they initially found it difficult to talk about how they were feeling to their friends and family however through these sessions they have begun to find more comfort in doing so. Through these experiences they have learned how to open up and talk about their mental health without feeling ashamed or embarrassed.

In addition, some people have emphasised how good it felt to talk to like-minded people, which instantly caused them to feel less judged. It wasn't until they had attended a session that they realised they were not the only one struggling and instead, it was quite a common thing. It had lead them to view the people they see in their day to day life in a very different light. Instead of feeling scared to speak up, they felt more empowered knowing that those around them may be able to relate. By being the first to talk, they may also give their friends and family the confidence to talk about their own experiences too.

Talking about mental health is an incredible way to ensure that nobody feels alone. It de-stigmatises it and allows those struggling to realise that it is more common than they originally lead themselves to believe. Talking about mental health can also educate those who may not fully understand the reality of it, and allow them to feel more confident in speaking to those around them who may be struggling.

Without conversation, the isolation that those experiencing mental health feel, would never go away. They would remain stuck in their own frame of mind and never be given the opportunity to relieve some of that pain. The act of conversation and talking about mental health can make a huge impact on a person’s life. Providing a listening ear and a safe space to talk, can help support them through what may be a very difficult time.

It’s time to talk and give mental health a voice. We need to empower those who speak up and make sure they are listened to. It can really help change lives.

Hello! I'm Lucy, a Clinical Psychology Masters student at Anglia Ruskin University! Through studying Psychology and experiencing life as a student, I have become incredibly passionate about mental health and helping to make a positive change. I have been volunteering for Student Minds for the past 2 years as a Peer Support Facilitator at my university, and have been the Editor of the Student Minds blog since June 2017.

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