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Personal stories

We know that conversations about mental health have the power to change lives. Our recent research shows how important open conversations in communities are to support everyone’s mental wellbeing. Here Sarah, Sandeep, Patricia and Ahmed share their stories about the importance of mental health conversations.

Sarah Nutall

'I know so well that when my mood is slipping, I retreat from social contact, and isolate myself. I may not be able to reach out to others for help, but with some of my friends and colleagues being aware of the signs means that they will ask if I’m ok, and I am able to say if I’m not ok. I don’t need to explain, and I don’t necessarily want to talk about what’s happened but being able to have a chat can lift my mood as the weight lifts off me.

Asking for help is so hard, whereas asking if someone is doing OK is easy in comparison. You could help catch someone who’s sliding down to a bad place, and help them climb back up. All it takes is a simple question, and caring about the answer. Having a cuppa and a chat, or a change of scene could mean the world, and also could save a life. So often we ask ‘How’s things?’ without really wanting to know the answer.'

Sandeep Saib

'I’ve supported Time to Talk Day since 2016. My involvement has boosted my self-confidence to live alongside my mental health and helped me to understand that I’m not alone. Talking is important because it allows us to express our thoughts, emotions and behaviours.

We talk about physical health, but mental health is not talked about in the same light - mainly as we can’t see it or feel it. And while I encourage everyone to talk about mental health on Time to Talk Day, and every other day of the year, we must also remember to listen. Listening is really powerful.

Patricia

'The reason I speak openly about my own mental health is to encourage others to do the same. The very first person I spoke to about my mental health in any detail was my doctor - at first I felt ashamed because I was crying, but the doctor let me talk at my own pace. He put his arm around my shoulder and said ‘we will get through this together’. I felt an overwhelming sense of relief, because he listened to me and put things in place quickly. I felt supported and less alone.

The first step is the hardest, but once you do it, you’ll be surprised at some of the positive results. If you are concerned about a loved one, don’t ignore it. Spend time listening to them and encourage them to talk about it in their own time and in their own way.'

Ahmed

'I first experienced mental health problems out of the blue during the pandemic. It was scary and at first I didn't know what was happening to me but eventually I got the right support and I am now in recovery - returning to work, on the right medication and doing well.

I decided to open up to a close friend who knew me well and who I felt confident would understand. I was right - he didn't judge me, just talked openly with me and I felt heard. Someone sympathised with me and made me feel like I wasn’t alone. Since then I have spoken to other friends and family and generally it's gone well.

Emotions are meant to be expressed. When you keep it inside, it starts brewing and it will inevitably go wrong. The value of talking is letting it out. Whether you are scared or unhappy or lonely, when you let that emotion out it’s not inside anymore, it’s not brewing. It’s a weight lifted off your shoulders. I tried coping by myself but it didn’t work. Now I can breathe.'

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