Ending the stigma of teenage mental health problems

My article for the Sunday Express Magazine, where I interviewed a mother and daughter Debbie and Jess about how they got through a tough time was really enlightening. They support the work of www.time-to-change.org.uk, a programme that aims to end the stigma and discrimination faced by people with mental health problems.

·         1 in four people experience a mental health problem in any given year.

·         1 in ten young people will experience a mental health problem

·         Nine out of 10 young people report stigma and negative treatment from others because of their mental health problems

Sue Baker, Director of Time to Change said:

“Mental health problems are still a taboo subject and, tragically, many people still feel the need to hide them.  

“Time to Change aims to change public attitudes and behaviour towards those of us with mental health problems, and is working to empower people with mental health problems to speak out about it. The more we’re all open about mental health, the more we can break the taboo around it.”

Advice on how to talk to someone who has a mental health problem:

*Don’t be afraid to ask them how they are.  Let them know you are available to help. Just making them aware that you’re there for them can make a really big difference.  

* Avoid clichés like ‘chin up’ or ‘it will pass’ as they won’t help. Being open-minded, non-judgemental and listening will.

* Don’t just talk about mental health. People don’t want to be defined by their illness. Talks about all the things you normally would – what you did last night, what tv programme you watched and so on.

*Give them time. Some people might prefer a text or email rather than talking face to face – but if you let them know you’re there for them to help when they’re ready, they can get in touch.

* Don’t avoid the issue. If someone comes to you to talk, try not to brush them off. Acknowledge their illness and let them know you’re there for them. If you feel awkward about the conversation, you might want to find out more about mental illness.

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