Mental health affects one in four of us each year in the UK, with anxiety and depression being the most common problems. Even with so many of us suffering, people are still afraid to talk about the subject. Talking about mental health helps break down stereotypes, improves relationships and aids recovery; and although not always easy, there are many ways to start a conversation whether it’s with your friend, family member or therapist.
Friends can provide a great deal of support. There’s a reason a friendship has formed – you share a common outlook or interest and can relate to each other on a personal level. Although friends may not be officially ‘qualified’ to support in times of distress, showing that you’re there to listen is incredibly important.
Friendship can play a key role in helping someone live with or recover from a mental health problem and overcome the isolation that often comes with it. Being there for someone can make a huge difference – here are a few tips from Time to Change on starting a conversation about mental health:
- Ask open questions that are non-judgemental and show that you’re listening to what they say
- Chat in a comfortable, relaxing environment – perhaps whilst out for a walk or cooking dinner
- Don’t try and fix the problem, just be there to support
- Treat them the same and carry on doing the activities that you normally do together
- Be patient – it can take time and confidence to speak about how we’re feeling
OU graduate, Shelia Cameron is registered disabled and has experienced anxiety and depression. She met a group of friends through studying with The Open University, which then led to her creating an online community for disabled students, inclusive of those struggling with poor mental health.
“I was at a very low point in my life. I had been a fully active person with a job and a family and then everything changed when I had the accident. Night-times can be very long so we set up a Facebook group for registered disabled students with 24 hour, 7 day-a-week support. People know it’s a closed group so it’s confidential and they can open up. Some people find it easier to do this with other students than with their own families.”
Shelia is now the elected Chair of the OU’s Disabled Student’s Group, and helps support disabled students, by growing the community and encouraging friendships.
Find out more
Discover the OU’s Disabled Students Group