The first step

Taking that first step to finding support with a mental health issue is a big deal, especially if you’ve absorbed unhelpful messages of ‘what have you got to be miserable about?’ ‘don’t be such a girl’ ‘boys don’t cry’ and ‘man up’ along the way. Or maybe you’ve created your own: ‘I don’t deserve help’.

On average, according to a Time to Change survey it can take around a year for someone to tell a family member or friend how they’re feeling, yes a year!! Imagine you’re experiencing  symptoms such as a sense of despair, emptiness, nothing gives you enjoyment, and on top of that you’re putting on a mask to hide it. That will add to the exhaustion that can accompany a mental health issue.

Don’t leave it a lifetime

At a mental health conference, I watched a poignant demonstration by the actor Ian Poulston-Davies of how his OCD symptoms manifest themselves during a simple visit to a restaurant. That was impactful enough, and then he recounted that at a similar speaking event a gentlemen in his eighties came up to him, and through the tears declared that his struggles finally made sense, he’d had OCD all his life but had never known

Fear and stigma hold us back and that’s bad for all of us. Seeking support and being supported as early as possible means our symptoms are likely to be more easily managed, less likely to reach crisis point and we are able to recover more quickly.

You don’t have to see the whole staircase , just to take the first step – Dr Martin Luther King Junior

Talk to someone you trust

That first step is so valuable but it doesn’t mean it will be easy. It takes so much courage to ask for help, but if you choose wisely (see next section), you’d be surprised at how privileged people can feel that you have trusted them to listen and support you.

How do I know who to trust?

Some people find this part excruciating difficult, so if you’re super cautious and have had cause to be wary of people’s reactions, have a read of chapter nine of Susan Calman’s book CHEER UP LOVE. She might be a comedian with a sharp wit, but her ex-lawyer hat means she has considered this area extensively and shares her research and evaluation. The questions she considers are:

Do you trust this person and have a gut feeling that they will keep your confidence? Are you in a position to deal with your problems? Where and how do you tell them? Do you think you will continue to see this person after you’ve revealed your problems?

You might find this approach reassuring, in which case read more in chapter nine of her book, or you might find it over analytical and just prefer to go with your instincts, we’re all so different.

A Listening ear

Being allowed to articulate what’s whirring round and round in our heads can be a life-saver. If you’re reading this to know how to support someone else, don’t underestimate the importance of just being a listening ear. Most of us could do with improving our listening skills, and the Samaritans have plenty of tips on active listening

Practical support

Having the energy to navigate what help there is out there can be quite a barrier, so if you can find an offer of support to find support, take it with both hands! The best supporter won’t take over and will offer to help you find out what’s available.

Hear about the value of a supportive conversation as part of the Heads Together video campaign.

Taking that first step to finding support – are you ready?

My blog Support and where to find it – there’s no one size fits all has all sorts of options, whether you want to go straight to the professionals or look at self-help strategies first, there’s something for everyone!

Nobody should be more than one call, one click or one chat away from help – Paul Polman, CEO Unilever

What do you think?

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