Talking about mental health is impossible to talk about…or that’s what I initially thought. Before my first conversation I built up this scene in my head of how terrifyingly awful it was going to be. Approaching a complete stranger is a nerve- racking thing in itself (it took me until the age of 22 to confidently walk into McDonald’s by myself and purchase my own Big Mac!) but to then have to talk about mental health when there is such stigma attached well that is out of the question….but two years on it’s now my day job.
Brolly Talk is a Time to Change funded project that aims to tackle the stigma and discrimination that surrounds mental health by having positive conversations with people. We attend all different types of events from food festivals to freshers fairs to fetes. We try and go to places where mental health wouldn’t typically be the topic of conversation.
What I have learnt that is there is no perfect way to have a conversation. Like every person, each conversation is different and 95% of the time they are positive. The hardest part is getting the confidence to take, what feels like a giant leap but is in fact a tiny step, to have that first conversation. The more you do it the easier it becomes. You learn what you feel comfortable with and how you prefer to phrase things. I certainly have my own little expressions I use. Of course it isn’t always a walk in the park and sometimes you can meet people that do not have the same views as yourself. But I’ve started to realize I enjoy the challenge of more difficult conversations, which of course is not everyone’s cup of tea. My personal favorite is when, like with every conversation, I drop that bomb shell that I am Bipolar but it’s when I get the conversation that then goes quiet, followed by an initial confused face, then disbelief with the response…
“But you look normal?!?”
The question I always return is…
“What is normal?”
Society has created this picture of normality. The definition of normal is ‘conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected.’ Why would we want to conform to being standard, I am an individual…cringe but true!
I have found from talking openly about my mental health that there is no greater satisfaction than a complete stranger walking away from you knowing that you fought your views to the end and made them change their perceptions of mental health. It is important to encourage people to be more open about talking about that big elephant in the room but I think the more important challenge is to change attitudes of those who are creating the elephant in the first place.