Making time to talk about mental health

1st February 2024

We should never underestimate the value of talking, and having someone really listen to what we have to say.

A catch up in the kitchen at work, a weekend walk with friends or family, or a long overdue phone call with a loved one – these are all opportunities to check in with people we care about, and make time to actively listen to any problems or concerns.

Time to Talk Day, taking place today, is the UK’s biggest mental health conversation, helping to break down barriers and reduce the stigma which prevents so many of us from asking for help when we need it. In Scotland the day is co-ordinated by See Me, Scotland’s national programme to end mental health stigma and discrimination. At SAMH, we are incredibly proud to have hosted See Me since its inception.

Last year, more than 500,000 conversations took place in Scotland on Time to Talk Day. But there are still many places where stigma persists and a culture of fear that stops us from opening up about our mental health and wellbeing, which can be the first step to life-changing support.

And even if we feel able to speak openly, it doesn’t always mean we will. Recent research by See Me found that 45% of people said that the pressures of the last few years (such as the cost of living crisis, pandemic, or negative news cycle) made them less likely to open up about their mental health because they don't want to worry others during difficult times.

This year’s campaign, ‘what I really mean’, asks us to remember that what we say doesn’t always reflect what’s going on under the surface. Many of us are likely to answer “I’m fine” when asked how we are, even if there’s something more going on in our life.

Since I joined SAMH in 2011, I’ve learned a lot about the importance of that very conversation. “I’m fine thanks” was a well-used term for me. The casual nature of that response often hid how I was really feeling. Over the years I’ve practised different approaches when responding to someone else who uses “I’m fine”. Sometimes just repeating “How are you really?” can inspire a different conversation. In that moment, my job is to listen. 

Today encourages us to be brave and dig deeper. So, make the most out of the day and message a friend, chat to a colleague, raise awareness in your community or share something on social media using #TimeToTalk.

You will find plenty of useful resources, including activity packs tailored to workplaces, community settings and young people, on the See Me website. Let’s get talking!

 - By Jo Anderson, Director of Influence & Change at SAMH