Thursday, 6 February 2014

The BIG talk about mental health

I think I might have mentioned before that my partner Graham Brand works for the Big Lottery Fund (aka BIG) based in Newtown. Well, today one of the projects funded by the BLF - Time to Change Wales  - had a major day of campaigning around the stigma associated with mental distress.

"24 hours in which to start conversations about mental health, raise awareness and share the message that mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, neither is talking about it. Sometimes it's the little things we do that make a big difference - like having a chat over a cuppa, sending a text or inviting someone out. And on Time to Talk Day we’re encouraging people to do just that. In fact, we're hoping to spark a million conversations, and we want your help to do that."

The day is called Time to Talk, and if I'm quick I might actually finish posting this blog before midnight on 6 February! There certainly has been a lot of talk about mental health today, both in the more traditional media and social media (check out these giant cups!). Tweets have been pouring in, telling us what people in organisations - large and small - have been talking about.

Whilst we have engaged in a bit of a debate on this blog around the approach taken by the Time to Change project the campaign goes on, of course! We would still like to challenge the underpinning theme of the campaign, that 1 in 4 people experience mental distress. We still strongly believe that any one of us could experience emotional trauma at any time - who knows what lies around the corner for any of us? We don't like the word "illness" either, preferring to use that of "distress"... but these arguments are out there for all to see. So today I will just highlight what happened in Newtown, and hundreds of other workplaces across the UK, and... in the end... readers have to make up their own minds. 

In the Newtown Big Lottery Fund office staff set up a Pledge Wall for Time to Change Day, and Lisa Powell sent through some photographs and a couple of paragraphs describing how they approached the day:

Today was Time to Talk day which is backed by Gofal, MIND Cymru and Hafal, and in the BIG office in Newtown we supported this campaign to get 1,000,000 conversations going about mental health throughout the UK and hopefully help put an end to the stigma surrounding mental health.

We had a pledge wall in the kitchen so people could make pledges about things they could do to be more aware of mental health, or conversations they could have with friends or anyone they know who suffers from a mental health illness. Basically anything that can be done to support the issues surrounding mental health. There were tea and biscuits too so people could sit and have a chat about their experiences or their exposure to this subject. There were leaflets about how to start conversations about mental health and facts and myths about it too. There were also posters put up around the office to remind people but also with facts and statistics on them about the amount of people who are affected by this.

Time to Talk had a big social media campaign, and backing from the Health Minister and celebrities who have been diagnosed with mental disorders. As well as having big and small organisations plus anyone who wants to talk about this subject, then we can all end the stigma surrounding this illness that affects 1 in 4 people.

"I pledge to continue to listen." One of the pledges on the Big Lottery Fund Pledge Wall.

Did you listen to anyone talk about their mental health today?

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