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Paul Devlin


Paul Devlin is chair of Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust – provider of mental health and learning disability services in Lincolnshire.

It’s easy to think there’s no right place to talk about mental health. But the more we talk about it, the better life is for all of us.

One in four of us will experience a mental health problem and 9 in 10 people say they have faced negative treatment from others as a result. By choosing to be open about mental health, we are all part of a movement that’s changing the conversation and ensuring that no one is made to feel isolated or alone for having a mental health problem.

As part of our ongoing commitment, we are supporting the national Time to Talk Day. Taking place on Thursday, February 1, this is a day when everyone is encouraged to have a conversation about mental health.

Too many people with mental health problems can feel isolated, worthless and ashamed. Time to Talk Day, is a chance for all of us to be more open – to talk, to listen, to change lives.

There have been many more conversations about mental health in the media thanks to campaigns such as Time to Change and Heads Together, supported by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry which aim to change how and when we talk about mental health. Time to Talk Day is another opportunity to continue this conversation.

Being open to mental health doesn’t have to be awkward and being there for someone can make a huge difference to their life.

Because there are so many misconceptions and stigma around mental health problems, choosing to speak can be very difficult. So, if a friend, loved one or colleague talks to you about some of their difficulties, there are useful ways that you can support them.

This may be the first time that they have spoken to anyone about how they are feeling. Give them space to find the words, listen patiently, and acknowledge their important feelings and experiences.

Ask questions. Being curious and asking about someone is better than assuming that you always know how they feel. Even if it’s something you’ve been through yourself, the chances are that they will be having a different experience to you.

Offer empathy. Sometimes people believe that no one else in the world feels the way they do or understands them. Let them know that you’re not judging them and that you get how they feel. And remember: if you feel you do not know how to help the other person it is okay to say so and it is ok to seek advice.

Keep in contact. Let them know that you are, and will be, there for them and are willing to talk and support when necessary.

So please take the time this Time to Talk Day to have a conversation with someone you may be worried about and join the wider conversation about mental health.

More details about Time to Talk Day and how you, your friends or your workplace could take part can be found at www.time-to-change.org.uk/get-involved/time-talk-day-2018

If someone you know is struggling encourage them to go speak to their GP, or self-refer to Lincolnshire’s steps2change talking therapies service for support www.steps2change.nhs.uk

Paul Devlin is chair of Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust – provider of mental health and learning disability services in Lincolnshire.

You may remember TV adverts about first aid in response to physical ill health. Vinnie Jones’ heart resuscitation to “Stayin’ alive” is a good example!

But would you know what to do if a friend or a family member experienced an episode of mental ill health? Do you think you’d have the confidence to approach them and talk openly in the same way you would if it was a physical health problem?

Unfortunately, mental health carries a lot of stigma, even though anyone can experience common mental health problems.

One in four people at some point in their life will suffer from depression, anxiety or stress. That might include you. And if not, will likely include someone you know.

But mental health can still be an “elephant in the room” – we know it is there, but just don’t know how to deal with it.

Do we say something? Should we ask about it, or not ask? Should we just pretend that nothing is happening?

This year’s World Mental Health Day on October 10 may be a chance to talk openly about something you have been avoiding.

I know that when I feel depressed, anxious or stressed, it can be hard to find the words to tell someone else.

Sometimes just asking “How are you?” or “Are you okay?” can be a start to a life changing conversation. Though, of course, if your friend or loved one doesn’t want to talk right now, don’t press them.

Let them know that you’re there to listen, whenever they are ready to talk.

The way we act around someone with mental ill health can have a significant impact on their recovery.

Feelings such as isolation, shame or worthlessness are too often experienced by people with mental ill health, and the way in which we respond to them can help reduce these feelings.

We should not be afraid to speak about our problems. For some, talking to a family member or a friend may be a good start. For others, it may be easier to talk with a professional first. That’s why anyone can self-refer to our steps2change NHS talking therapies service, and for many, seeing your GP may also be a first step on the recovery journey.

Visit www.lpft.nhs.uk

Paul Devlin is chair of Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust – provider of mental health and learning disability services in Lincolnshire.