Why it really is good to talk


By Fran Stulberg, Chair of Riverside’s disability support group Enable

Today is national Time to Talk Day and here at Riverside we’re encouraging our staff to do just that.

Less than a year ago, we signed up to the Time to Change pledge and, since then have been slowly and steadily challenging the stigma surrounding mental health in the workplace.

Leading from the top, our Chief Executive Carol Matthews has supported the initiative from the outset and brave colleagues have come forward to tell stories of their own personal struggles.

And today, our army of more than 70 mental health champions will join forces to hold lunchtime drop-in sessions at offices and schemes across the country to help us spread the word that sometimes it’s ok not to be ok and that there’s always someone to talk to here at Riverside.

When we first launched the Time to Change campaign and asked for volunteers to take on the mental health champion role, we expected we’d get around 20 responses.

We were so overwhelmed with the tidal wave of support from across the country that we decided to train everyone who had shown an interest and now have a waiting list of volunteers wanting to get involved in forthcoming training sessions.

Since then the wealth of support has grown and today, as well as holding our own internal awareness raising sessions, one of our champions Terri Constable will represent Riverside at Time to Change’s national event in Birkenhead. This is the first time a national Time to Talk Day has been held in Birkenhead, at stands 1-4 in Mersey Travel Birkenhead Bus Station. This public event will be running from 11am to 2.30pm, aiming to raise awareness around mental health and encourage people to have a conversation.

Earlier this month, Riverside’s work in recruiting employee champions was also showcased on Time to Change’s website.

Mental health has historically been a taboo subject, but just starting a conversation can really help. Here a few tips for how to get going:

Start small

Many people find talking in person intimidating, and that’s understandable. But it doesn’t need to stop you from starting a conversation. You could make a quick phone call, send your mate a text, or leave a note for a parent.

Find a good time and place

Sometimes it’s easier to talk side-by-side rather than face-to-face. So, if you do talk in person, you might want to chat while you are doing something else. You could start a conversation when you’re walking, cooking or stuck in traffic.

Ask questions (gently!)

There are lots of misconceptions around mental illness. That means asking questions can be an important way of learning. Just remember not to get too personal, and be aware if the discussion is making someone feel uncomfortable.

Be open

Being open and honest with others can help to build trust. For example, you might choose to tell your friend something about you that they may not know. Just remember, don’t feel pressure to share anything that you are not comfortable with.

Treat them the same

When someone is diagnosed with a mental illness, they’re still the same person as they were before. And that means when a friend or loved one opens up about mental health, they don’t want to be treated any differently. If you want to support them, keep it simple. Do the things you’d normally do.

For more information or support visit www.time-to-change.org.uk