Why is there still a stigma attached to mental health? Why are we much better at talking about physical ailments? These are questions that I think about a great deal and when I read about the Time to Change campaign I knew I wanted to be part of it. A month ago I met with Sarah who heads the West Essex team and talked through becoming a Champion.
The Time to Change Campaign is led by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, its goal is to change the way people think and act about mental health problems.
I think that before I write about how chnage needs to happen I do want to say that huge steps have already been made in addressing people preconceptions and attitude towards dealing with and accepting mental health problems. This being said we have a long way to go.
Mental health probelms will affect one in four of us, yet many still fear seeking professional help or simply voicing their issues to family members due to a stigma that is still attached to a health problem that should be as normal as telling someone you have broken a bone. When I struggle with my mental health it is like something is a little broken in me and like a broken bone it can be fixed but the crack will still be there and is a bit weaker that it had been. Telling someone you have broken your arm will always be greeted with concern and well wishes (perhaps a little joking about how it happened). Telling someone you have had to go on anti depressants and are struggling with anxiety may (at times) be responded to fairly differently. Dont get me wrong, many of my friends and family are excellent at dealing with mental health but there are still some who on learning that I have these issue will give me a wide birth or simply not know what to say. They may find the topic awkward and outside their comfort zone. With a statistic of 1 in 4 I think we need to bring mental health into all of our comfort zones.
The Time To Change Campaign is doing exactly this, it works on many levels, from promoting good mental health with your friends it also reaches out further into the community. When I met with Sarah from West Essex Mind she was telling me about how she was trying to get the Time To Change campaign into the workplace and was contacting local businesses to give them free advice and information so that they have a mental health strategy operating. Too many employers do not have any eductaion in caring for the mental health for their staff, this is not necessarily their fault as perhaps the information hasn’t been redily available. At times employees find that they cannot admit problems that are occuring until maybe its too late and are signed off by the doctor for stress or other issues. If procedures are in place it is shown that less time off would be needed, Sarah is doing an amazing job for businesses in Uttlesford. Time To Change also works with schools and young people, I am well aware now looking back that I was depressed in my teens and at the time due to thinking that the normal teenage angst was, well, normal. I didnt do anyhting about it. More and more teenagers and young adults are needing help, which shows that we are getting better at seeking it but also says we need to educate from a younger age. On the Time To Change site there is lots of useful information for teachers too. The video below shows just how important it is to educate young people.
As a small team, the West Essex Mind hope to spread the word in the community and have stalls at local events where they offer a space to have a cup of tea and a chat. We have plans for having more of these events in local towns, maybe at fetes or country shows too, so if you are running any events and would be able to offer us a stall please get in touch with me at email@example.com.
If you feel you could offer any time to volunteer or want to become a champion yourself and live in west Essex please send Sarah an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you live elsewhere here is the link to the main website to sign up to become a champion http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/get-involved/time-change-champions/register-champion
Below I have added a video from the Time To Change website, I think it shows what they are trying to achieve and just how important it is.