Yesterday, I read the sad news that the Time To Change campaign will be coming to an end in England in March next year, as the Government has confirmed it will no longer be in a position to provide funding. Time To Change has been working for 15 years to improve attitudes around mental health, with activity such as Time to Talk Day, and their most recent impact report suggested an improvement in the attitudes of more than 5 million people since the campaign began.
Time to Talk Day a few years ago was the first time I ever wrote openly about the mental health difficulties I’d been experiencing, in a long since deleted blog post on a blog that never really got going. It was Time to Change that inspired me to run my first ever 10k (medal proudly displayed in the photo above!) for Rethink Mental Illness, who set up the campaign along with Mind. Time to Change had a huge part to play in helping me start to feel comfortable talking about mental health and, most importantly at the time, they helped me to realise that the way I was feeling wasn’t “weird”. In fact, I became so comfortable talking that I let Cosmopolitan interview me about my mental health in 2017 (link here), and I’ve continued to talk about it pretty regularly ever since.
I suppose it could be tempting to think that the work of campaigns like this in England is done. Personally, I hear discussions or read articles around mental health on an almost daily basis. Support is promoted at work (particularly this year), I talk about it with friends, I read others sharing their stories and mental health “ups and downs” online. But I’m also aware that I’m right in the middle of a bit of a bubble – that classic online echo-chamber – when it comes to these issues. I share (some may say over-share) my experiences, and I appreciate others who do the same – so those are the people I pay attention to. I surround myself with people who care about mental health and about normalising the conversation, and so for me, the conversation has become just that – entirely normal.
But my very small circle of mental health advocates is far from being representative of every section of society. So while my “world” has moved on over the last 15 years of this campaign, I can’t assume that the world has moved on for everyone. I still remember clearly the way life felt before I realised that other people understood, and before I even really understood that the stuff going on in my head was anxiety (initially mixed in with depression, just for good measure). I remember calling in sick to work and hiding in bed, convinced that I was a complete weirdo, that I was just incapable of dealing with life and just desperately wanting to be “like everyone else”. The most important thing I remember, is that once I realised I could talk about it, and that other people felt the same, it all just seemed so much more manageable. That’s why it’s so important for these conversations to carry on – so that all the people still stuck where I was then, can get to where I am now.
That last paragraph was all a bit bleak so let me continue on a brighter note. Without campaigns like Time to Change I am convinced I wouldn’t have reached the stage I did with this “talking” stuff, as quickly as I did. Reading their regular posts online, where they’ve shared endless stories from all kinds of people with all kinds of experiences, really did help. So that’s the main reason for this quick lunchtime blog – to say thank you to a campaign that really has made a difference to my own little world.
And now…I continue to talk. My regular rambles about “thoughts” and “feelings” may be a bit over-sharey for some people, and that’s okay – at age 36, I have finally accepted that I will never be everyone’s cup of tea. I’ve found my own little community of talkers and over-sharers, and friends who appreciate my ramblings (well…plus a few who just switch off from it but love me anyway). So to all my fellow “talkers” out there, let’s just make sure we don’t get complacent, and that we keep pushing this conversation. Let’s really try our best to continue the amazing progress that Time to Change has spent the last 15 years achieving.