I met Jackie at one of SoundDelivery’s digital storytelling workshops, in my role as Storyteller Support for Coventry & Warwickshire’s Year of Wellbeing 2019.
Jackie wrote this beautiful piece for Time to Talk Day which really resonated with me and holds an important message. Time to Talk Day was over a week ago, but I’m publishing this now because I completely agree with Jackie’s message that
It’s Time To Talk EVEY DAY.
Seems to me that if you belong to a certain generation, growing up was a constant reminder of when it was not time to talk. Those well-used phrases are ingrained in our brains.
“Shh, be quiet!”
“Children should be seen and not heard.”
“Don’t tell tales.”
And it even extended to grown ups apparently… I can remember my Granddad asserting quite vehemently that a gossiping woman and a cackling hen were neither use to God nor men. I liked it. It had a rhyme and a ring to it, and the statement seemed reasonable enough to my childish intellect.
Yet take a look through the newspapers or scroll through social media on any given week now…
You will find no shortage of stories of people who should have talked but didn’t.
Those who keep quiet an illness while it soundlessly takes them away, robbing friends and family of the chance to help, to share their feelings, or even say goodbye.
Victims of abuse who hold their silence over the years whilst the angst within them ruins their lives and the lives of those close to them.
The suicides who tell in a note, when it’s too late, what they couldn’t put into words while time was on their side.
More mundanely, don’t we shun conversation daily. Many times I’ve been out with friends, and glanced around the table to see half of them busily clicking away on their social media of choice. Taking practised posed selfies and adding comments, showily telling what a fabulous time they’re having, instead of actually enjoying our evening together.
Other friends quieten discontented children with a screen; their little fingers learn how to manoeuvre the controls of a video game before they can catch a ball. And I know many homes, where the TV is switched on automatically in the early evening and only switched off at bedtimes. Family dinners on laptrays while eyes are glued to soaps, news and, ironically, reality programmes. Watching other peoples’ lives, be they fictional or real, listening to their conversations, instead of making their own.
Time To Talk Day, which took place on 7th February this year, was an initiative by Time To Change: an organisation founded in England in 2007 to reduce mental health discrimination and the stigma around mental health issues.
The main focus of this year’s campaign was to tackle mental health problems by… Well, the name’s on the tin really… By talking about them.
It wasn’t imperative that the conversation be specifically about mental health. I love easy chats over tea and biscuits as much as the next person, and think we underestimate the value of gentle, pleasant talk like this. Friendly chatter surely promotes good mental health and isn’t this as important as the more daunting conversation, which feels it’s way into delicate enquiry about someone’s already possibly compromised health? I think they’re two sides of a coin. One side inevitably picks up the daily trivia – the minor niggles, disappointments and upsets before they grow into troubles and resentments. The other side is harder work, a difficult subject to broach, but compared to suffering and being stigmatised by a mental health problem, how tough can those first awkward words be?
Cynics might question how much change a single day can realistically bring about, and they have a point.
To make a real and lasting difference, Time to Talk Day 2019 needs to be just the start of a powerful enduring campaign to convince people to communicate – regularly. And for those in need to feel comfortable to speak out in confidence that they’ll be listened to and taken seriously.
So let’s try putting down phones, switching off TVs and computers and forget about all the things we ‘should’ be doing, mundane tasks that really can wait in the grand scheme of things.
The message that it’s always Time To Talk needs to be heard loudly and clearly.
Remember 1 in 4 people are likely to experience a mental health problem this year. By being generous and compassionate with your conversation, you WILL inevitably make a difference. I’m certainly ready to try. Are you?
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