On 1 February, we’re getting everyone talking about mental health through the Time to Talk campaign – run by Time to Change.
So what’s it all about?
Time to Change is an anti-stigma movement to break down the barriers about mental health and get us talking positively about the subject. There’s so much stigma attached to mental health and this can really affect someone’s mental health and hinder their recovery.
People with mental health needs are least likely to find work, be in a steady, long-term relationship and be socially included in mainstream society. The public’s perception of mental health needs to change – and this campaign is helping to tackle this.
Time to get talking – and listening.
People seem to be scared and awkward in talking about mental health issues and when they do open up, we (as listeners) can mess it up!
There’s nothing worse than finally opening up about your mental health, when the person makes you feel uncomfortable, judges you or even doesn’t really pay attention. We’ve come up with some good tips to being a good listener:
- Give the person your undivided attention
There’s nothing worse than talking to someone who isn’t really paying attention to you. It’s off-putting, but also rude.
If you think it’s too busy where you are, move into a different room. Turn off the TV and put your phone on silent. But if you really can’t spare the time to talk, and the person clearly isn’t in crisis, tell them politely and be there for them another time.
- It’s their story - let them tell it!
Try not to be too conversational by talking about yourself and your experiences, unless they are useful. Let them open up. Avoid saying that you know how they feel, if you really don’t. Don’t interrupt what the other person is saying and try not to talk over them.
Ask open-ended questions to get them to talk more. Yes or no answers won’t help the person to divulge very much information. Ask questions like ‘and how does that make you feel?’ or ‘tell me more…’.
Show that you’ve been listening to them by repeating what they’ve said. You’ll show that you’ve understood everything and that you are really listening.
- Don’t judge
What the person has to say is important to them. It doesn’t matter whether you agree, disagree or even understand what they may be going through.
Your job is to listen and be supportive. You don’t have to be an expert on mental health to be a good listener, so don’t to feel like you have to give them advice. Just listen with an open mind and acknowledge what they are saying and how they are feeling.
- Be patient
Opening up to someone can be really difficult, so be patient. Don’t worry if there are awkward pauses, just wait until they are ready to talk. Use body language and gestures so that they know you are paying attention to what they are saying.
- Keep it confidential
If someone is opening up to you, don’t tell other people like it’s gossip. It may be personal and private, so make sure you reassure the person that you will not share information with anyone else. However, if they are divulging something that could result in harm to themselves or others, you have a duty to pass this on.
- Offer to be there for them again
Let them know you’re around if they need to talk again.
- Take care of yourself
If someone divulges something distressing, you
may need to speak to someone to help manage
the feelings. Remember confidentiality.
Sometimes a few small words can make a big difference to someone with a mental health need – like ‘How are you?’ or ‘Are you OK?’ This can have a massive impact for someone struggling with their mental health.
Download our poster to being a good listener here.
Our job is to get people talking!
As a provider of mental health services across Kent and the South East, we’re always talking about mental health. We run a 6-week wellbeing programme across Kent that gives people coping mechanisms to support their mental wellbeing. We also support people to get back into work in Maidstone and support employers to help retain their staff who are struggling with their mental health.