When I told my boyfriend that I was writing a blog “for tomorrow”, he asked what the occasion was. I told him it’s #TimetoTalk day and he replied, “Again? It’s always Time to Talk day these days!” Although not strictly true, he has a pretty good point, like, I can see why he thinks that. There’s ‘Eating Disorders Awareness Week’ in February, ‘Mental Health Awareness Week’ in May, ‘World Mental Health Day’ in October, ‘Time to Talk Day’ today and a plethora of other awareness days dotted around in between. A whole year punctuated with awareness days and weeks, awareness coming out of our ears, so much awareness that awareness days and weeks become so usual that the word ‘awareness’ gets a bit tired and then loses its impact, which is a shame, because it is a good thing.
It’s also a good thing that people are talking. Each of the aforementioned days and weeks gets bigger and noisier year on year, and since The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry spearheaded their own mental health initiative ‘Heads Together’, it seems that mental health is being covered in the media now more than ever and, for the most part, in an increasingly positive and informed way. Soap and drama writers are consulting with charities to ensure story lines give an accurate portrayal of different mental health issues; local papers end potentially triggering articles with a list of helplines and websites and there is a growing pressure on media outlets who fail to comply by reporting guidelines that are available to them.
Things are changing, and they’re changing for the better, but it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. All the time we’re being encouraged to ‘join the conversation’, ‘open up’ and ‘share our stories’ and we’re being told that every time we do, we’re ‘breaking down the stigma’ – which is fine, but it’s not for everyone, and on days like #TimetoTalk day, it can get a bit overwhelming, overbearing and for some, triggering.
There’s a tendency to assume that people don’t talk openly about their mental health because of the shame attached to it, which is definitely true in many cases, but that isn’t the only reason. It can be tiredness, frustration, anger, fear…
People are tired of the monotony of living with mental health issues, when no amount of talking feels like it ever gets them anywhere.
People are frustrated with waiting lists, cuts to services, and postcode lotteries, when we are told that early intervention is key but also non-existent.
People are angry at constantly broken promises, extra funds being dangled like carrots that disappear in front of our eyes because they are never ring-fenced.
People are scared that at a time when more mental health treatment is needed, the NHS is on its knees and it is the overworked, underpaid nurses that need anti-depressants.
Some people don’t talk because, although it might get a few likes and retweets, it feels as though it doesn’t change or improve anything in the grand scheme of things.
It feels like more people are talking, but nobody – certainly not those in power – is listening.