Time to Talk Day is nearly upon us! This is a fantastic initiative, which encourages everyone to sit down and have a chat about mental health.
We’re getting better, as a society, at talking about the things which trouble us. But there’s still a long way to go. Too many people bottle up mental and emotional troubles until they can bear it no longer. It’s thought that a culture of silence around male mental health issues may be one of the reasons why more men commit suicide than women. Communication is important – especially when it comes to mental health.
Time To Talk Day aims to break down barriers to communication, and get people talking openly and honestly about their mental and emotional problems. As counsellors, we are well aware of just how powerful a tool something as ‘simple’ as talking can be, so we’re delighted that this initiative is gathering steam.
BENEFITS OF TALKING ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH
- BREAKS DOWN STIGMAS. You may have heard it said that the first step to solving a problem is admitting that the problem exists in the first place. This is as true for wider society as it is for individuals. There is still a lot of prejudice, stigma, and fear surrounding mental illness – and a lot of these stem from secrecy and ignorance. Talking about mental illness helps to bring it out into the light. It dispels harmful myths about the mentally ill, and it helps others to find compassion and acceptance for people with mental health problems.
- HELPS PIN DOWN PROBLEMS. Mental illness often seems ‘shapeless’ to the person experiencing it. It can be a strange mix of thoughts and emotions which don’t seem to be fixed on or by anything. This makes it frustratingly difficult to understand what’s going on. Talking with an accredited counsellor can draw out the problem and make its ‘shape’ clearer. The back-and-forth of conversation, or even just hearing yourself describe what you’re experiencing, can pin down and clarify patterns and problems. This makes it a lot easier to understand exactly what you’re dealing with.
- IMPROVES RELATIONSHIPS. Mental illness can cause big problems within relationships. Often, however, these problems are down to a lack of communication. One partner may not understand why the other is acting in the way that they are. Talking openly, honestly, and calmly about how you’re feeling and why both of you do the things you do can build understanding and mutual empathy. If you’re struggling to talk effectively with someone in your life, finding a good relationship counsellor or a family counsellor is a good idea.
- CAN BE MORE EFFECTIVE THAN MEDS. Mental health medications can work wonders, and many people swear by them. However, talking therapies with trained mental health professionals can give patients long-term coping strategies which they can draw upon if medication ever fails them. The most effective mental health treatments often involve a combination of medication and counselling, but everyone is different, so don’t be afraid to explore many options while you’re working out the right solution for you.
- LONG-LASTING EFFECTS. Continuing with the above theme, medication only works while you’re taking it. Talking therapies, however, teach you skills and give you self-knowledge which deepen and grow over time. The effects of a good talking therapy which works for you can last a lifetime. As such, it will help you to overcome relapses and problems you encounter far into the future.
- LENDS SOLIDARITY. Talking about mental health issues with others who are experiencing the same thing can be a huge relief. It’s very isolating to think that what you’re going through is rare and strange. Listening to the experiences of others gives a great sense of solidarity. It’s also very comforting to know that others have been where you are before, and have got better.
- GIVES A NEW PERSPECTIVE. One of the great things about talking things through with another person is that other people have a unique perspective on what you’re going through. They may be able to see a bigger picture that you’ve missed, or spot patterns you were not aware of. Gaining a new perspective on what you’re experiencing can be very valuable indeed. This works the other way, as well. Talking through experiences and events with friends, loved ones, and counsellors can give you a different perspective on the way in which they think and act. Often, people make assumptions about why other people do or say things and, often, those assumptions are wrong. By talking about our motivations and feelings, we can freshen up both our own perspective and those of our friends, and get a more accurate picture of what’s going on in our lives and our relationships.
- REWIRES YOUR BRAIN. Talking therapies with trained counsellors can alter the way you think at a structural level. Studies on the brains of people undergoing talk therapies show that, over time, their brain activity changes markedly. This is probably because a good counsellor can teach their clients to almost literally rewire their thought patterns to such a profound degree that it shows up on brain scans.
- CAN AID PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS. Our bodies and our minds are a lot more interconnected than many of us realise. Psychological trauma can have physical symptoms, and vice versa. As the mind heals, these physical symptoms often disappear as well. For example, depression is known to cause lethargy and loss of energy in sufferers. Talking through depression and finding ways to combat it can also make the exhaustion and lethargy improve. Sometimes, people even ‘somatize’ psychological pain – meaning that swallowed feelings and emotions show up as headaches, nausea, or other physical symptoms. Getting to the bottom of what’s causing the psychological issues will straighten out these physical issues as well.
If you think that talking or talk therapy could help you, check out our website for tips on finding the right counsellor to suit you.