Dan Parton cutA survey from anti-stigma campaign Time to Change this week revealed that nearly a third of people still feel uncomfortable talking about mental health problems. It demonstrates why we need more efforts to ensure people know about mental ill health and feel confident enough to talk about it.

It was a famous 90s TV advertising campaign for a major telecoms company that saw the late Bob Hoskins tell us “it’s good to talk”, but for people with mental health issues, it really can be.

Even just asking a friend over a cup of coffee if they are OK can be a help to people experiencing mental ill health. Talking about issues can be a release, and a friendly chat can help people to realise they aren’t alone, and maybe encourage them to seek help.

But still there are a significant minority who don’t feel able to talk about mental health. Time to Change’s survey found that 28% said they would feel uncomfortable asking someone close to them about their mental health problem. 

When asked why, the top reasons people gave were that they would worry that it would make the other person feel uncomfortable or embarrassed (58%); that they wouldn’t know what to say (32%); that they would worry the other person wouldn’t want to talk about it with them (32%); and that they wouldn’t feel that they could help (27%).

While mental health is more high-profile and talked about than ever before, this shows that more still needs to be done as ignorance of conditions still exists among some. Moreover, there are still cultures where mental health is largely taboo, and it is still perceived by some as a sign of weakness, so many people still end up suffering in silence – which can exacerbate matters as they don’t get help at an early stage and it can mean they end up with a more serious mental health problem as a result.

This is why things like World Mental Health Awareness Day – as well as the recent Schizophrenia Awareness Week and Bipolar Awareness Week – are important. With these come lots of events to raise the profile of mental health and this momentum needs to be seized on. While some may question the value of such days or weeks, I think they serve a purpose and will do for years to come – as they can increase the understanding and awareness of mental health issues. 

The more mental health is out in the open being talked about, whether it is through awareness days or weeks, anti-stigma campaigns, storylines on TV soap operas or on debate shows, the better. The more the public knows about mental health, the more confident they will be to talk about it – or listen to others – which can make all the difference.