Mental health is just as important as our physical health but many go about their lives ignoring this crucial aspect of their health and wellbeing. Truth be told, the state of your mental health can significantly affect your psychological, emotional, and social well-being. In other words, your mental health influences how you feel and act on a daily basis.
Many people struggle to talk about their mental health and the challenges they may be facing. In this blog, Adebimpe Ajeleti (Mental Health Support Worker) and Anastacia Amofa (BGPA Communications Officer) give practical tips on how to overcome the fear of opening up and discuss the benefits of talking.
People have various reasons for not opening up about their mental health issues, some of the common reasons include:
- Fear and shame of being seen differently or being associated with a negative stigma
- Lack of awareness and recognition that what someone is going through is a mental challenge. People sometimes get used to their challenges and fail to see them as issues that need addressing.
- The feeling of being a burden to others by speaking to them about your struggles.
- The hopeless feeling of thinking that no one cares, no one would ever understand or nothing can be done to help.
Young people, in particular, may find it difficult to open up because they feel others may think they are ‘weird’, treat them differently or even spread rumours about them.
Although these feelings are genuine areas of concern when it comes to talking about mental health, we have to understand that the benefits of speaking about our struggles far outweigh the fears.
By understanding these common barriers that hinder us from talking, we are able to fight them and start conversations that drive change.
How to overcome the fear of opening up about your mental health issues
- Be honest: when someone you trust genuinely asks you how you are doing, don’t rush to give a casual answer, take a moment and be honest about how you’ve really been doing
- One thought at a time: when we are overwhelmed, the thought of talking to someone may feel daunting because we do not know where to start. However, focusing on talking about one challenge/worry at a time, makes it easier for us to get the conversation started and open up more
- Awkward is normal: we tend to avoid a situation when we anticipate it might be awkward. Always remember that feeling awkward about something new outside your comfort zone is completely normal. Sometimes we make things look worse in our mind than it is and the best thing you can do is to confront it. Don’t let fear hold you back, there are people who care and want to help you
- You are not alone: sometimes when struggling with mental health issues, we may feel ashamed and isolate ourselves, which tends to aggravate the situation. In reality, 1 in 6 people experiences mental health issues on a weekly basis, making it more common than you think. Your GP can support you and give you the right resources – so fight the urge to hide and open up instead.
- Anonymous help: talking to someone we do not know helps to eliminate the fear of being judged, being a burden or feeling ashamed. There are various helplines you can call to speak to someone about your mental health challenges. Visit: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/guides-to-support-and-services/crisis-services/helplines-listening-services/
As our mental health plays a pivotal role in our overall health, it is important that we talk about it more often and in so doing, normalise discussing mental health issues and fighting the taboo.
Opening up and addressing mental health issues helps us to:
- Relieve anxiety and depression
- Reflect and process issues in a healthier way
- Gain deeper understanding or new perspectives about our problems and the solutions
- Empowers us to be in control of our actions and reactions to situations
- Know ourselves better i.e. understanding our strengths and weaknesses
- Get the help and resources we need
- Foster a sound mind and harmonious living with others
- Be better support for others i.e. better parents, friends, colleagues, leaders etc.
In addition to the personal benefits of talking about your mental health issues, you will be helping others indirectly as it helps fight the negative stigma and helps make more mental health resources available.
There is no shame in talking about your mental health, on the contrary, it is a brave step to take – we hope you do take it!
This blog is a collaborative work by Adebimpe Ajeleti, a Mental Health Support Worker at Bromley, Lewisham & Greenwich Mind and Anastacia Amofa, a Communications Officer at BGPA.
Adebimpe Ajeleti works as part of the BLG Mind team to promote mental health, support local people experiencing mental health problems and dementia by improving their quality of life.
Anastacia Amofa is part of the BGPA team and an internal and external advocate for mental health by researching and sharing practical tips to help people improve their quality of life.