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Time to talk: why reaching out is the best first step

We’ve all heard of ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’. So why is it still so difficult for many of us to open up about our problems, especially when it comes to mental health? On this year’s Time To Talk Day, we’re looking at why it’s more important than ever to have these conversations now.

I’ve been a support team caseworker at Foothold for over six years. Along with three other colleagues, I provide our community members with information, advice and support with some of life’s challenges.

Mental health is an ever-growing area of our support that’s increased hugely over the last 12-18 months. And it’s really not that surprising. This Office for National Statistics report is only one of many, indicating that the world’s mental health is declining in the COVID-19 pandemic. This makes timely treatment absolutely vital. And at Foothold, we’re really proud to be working with experts like Anxiety UK to ensure our community has access to different treatment options.

 

Taking the first step

From the many conversations my colleagues and I have had with our community, we know that taking the first step and getting in touch is a huge challenge. Understandably so. The stigma of asking for help, especially for engineers (who pride themselves on solving problems) is still there. And sometimes people have had bad experiences in the past. They’re either passed from pillar to post or made to wait for long periods of time.

Every person is different, and we use a holistic approach to find out how we can help. My priority is always to make sure the person I’ve spoken to feels reassured and listened to. Someone I supported a couple of years ago said our team had “completely assured me right away that I had come to the right place to find help.” For us, this is key to making sure people feel safe discussing their concerns.

In most cases, we can’t resolve all problems right there and then. But it’s important that they feel they’re on the right path – whether it’s finances, work or health. And I hope that the more we talk about the network of support that Foothold is for engineers and their families, the more comfortable our community will be having those conversations too.

 

Why talking works

We know that problems rarely exist in isolation and this is especially true for mental health issues. Feeling like you’re not on top of things can snowball quickly and start affecting your relationships, physical health and work life too. So, taking even small steps like telling somebody about what’s on your mind, can have a profound impact.

And of course, by talking about mental health challenges openly, we normalise the topic. There are still many harmful and false notions about mental health out there. But when we make it part of everyday conversation, we tell ourselves and everyone around us that it’s safe and good to talk and that it is ok to not be ok.

Along with ‘how was your weekend?’ let’s ask ‘how are you coping with lockdown?’ And instead of ‘fine’ when we’re not, let’s say ‘it’s actually quite tough right now’. You’ll likely find that most people will be understanding, relieved and willing to open up in return.

Having conversations about mental health can be tricky. But we don’t treat them differently than other types of support we offer to our community. If it’s having a negative effect on somebody’s wellbeing, we’re here to listen and work out a solution together.

So, if you’re not coping as well as you’d like, and you could use someone to talk to, please get in touch with us. We’re here to help.

 

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