Can you believe it’s been two decades since the BT advert ‘it’s good to talk’ commercials? If my memory serves me correctly it was the endearing ‘Bob Hoskins’, whilst offering BT ‘friends and family’ deals, who always ended with the catchphrase ‘it’s good to talk’. We could do with that slogan today, more than ever.
Today I’m writing about talking, how it can help our wellbeing and how it can successfully reduce stigma. I believe, it can even help save lives.
Why women talk
As women, talking comes naturally to many of us. I don’t think we are always aware of the positive impact this can have, for us, as well as for others.
In history, women used to be depicted as wallowing in ‘idle gossip’, having little of much importance to talk about. How very rude! The truth, however, is that when we chat – in pairs, or in a group -, we often find ourselves engaging in a form of ‘self’ therapy. Often, without realising, (during our ‘idle gossip’), we support and help each other for a fraction of the price you would pay a professional therapist.
As we air problems about our children, husbands or menopausal issues, our fears are relieved, and our hopes reinstalled in life. All of this helps to maintain our equilibrium, keep things in check.
It is a very different story for a lot of men.
Why men don’t talk
In the past, we somehow created the stereotype ‘big boys don’t cry’. Men should be ‘tough’, resilient, and the ‘stronger’ sex; a classic example of stigma. This has made it harder for them to show their emotions or reveal when they aren’t coping. They don’t tend to talk about their problems; to ask for help is still seen as a weakness. This often results in their failure to seek medical assistance, or much-needed medication. This isolation can be fatal.
Sad facts of suicide
Statistics show that men are three times more likely to end their life than women, which is heart-breaking. Have you ever thought about this? Hobbies, jobs, and family roles, have changed, with increasing equality between men and women these days. But what still needs to catch up is the ability for men to talk about their feelings and emotions, the way women do.
Whilst, I believe things are starting to change, it can’t happen quickly enough. The more awareness we have, the better, which is why I have become a speaker/advocate for mental health. Too many people have been silenced by stigma for too long, and, if being brave and talking about my experience with ‘psychosis’ can save just ‘one’ life, then it is worth it, in my opinion.
Success of talking
Imagine this scenario for a moment: a middle-aged woman in her fifties thinks she may be going mad (no I’m not talking about myself!). She has been struggling for months, with new feelings of panic, not sleeping, and feeling depressed. In her monthly women’s group, someone mentions how she went to the doctor to get HRT for her menopause. It has changed her life. The symptoms she describes are identical, and the poor woman now makes the connection and discovers that there is something that may help her. The weight has been lifted from her before she even makes the visit to the doctor! Relief, hope and a way forward.
In the same light, imagine a man in this scenario. If the ‘lads’ weren’t ones for talking about the menopause, the man in question would continue to struggle alone, not knowing why he feels so awful. He becomes isolated; reaches the point of not being able to carry on, unaware that there is a solution, that perhaps he should visit the doctor. There is no hope. Everyone is left mystified and unaware that he had even been struggling, after he ends his life!
Talk about the good and the bad
Keep the lines of communication open – this not only helps ourselves, but educates others in the process.
Talking is, without doubt, healthy. But we need to talk about the good and the bad. Only talking about the ‘bad’ and always being negative, is not healthy; it means you are not finding balance and being drawn into the negativity pit. Spit and rinse! By this, I mean spit all the negative stuff out, but then rinse! Freshen up and refocus by finding the positives. I always say ‘where the focus goes, energy flows’ so always end on an up note, talk about good things, and things will improve.
Please note, that I have a group on Facebook called ‘stamp on stigma’ where we share and learn about mental health, talk freely about any struggles, giving a safe place to talk – without fear of judgement. We share a great deal of positivity and uplifting posts to support each other. Most importantly, we meet up once a month in a cafe in Cromer.
In today’s world of texts and social media, it is too easy to neglect developing our emotional intelligence, ideally found in face-to-face communication. Technology has slowly overtaken our lives, making human communication more daunting, especially with the younger generation, and this is scary!
By their own admission, millenials often claim they find conversation difficult, and prefer the safety of hiding behind a screen. But it loses the human touch! We cannot pick up on the inflection, the mannerisms, or perhaps, the pain we may see in someone’s eyes! Plus, it is all too easy to misinterpret the words we read in a message, which can cause a whole host of problems.
I remember as a child only speaking to friends (or boyfriends!) on the old pushbutton phones, (am I showing my age?),or by meeting up in person. We didn’t have tinder, voice messages, whatsapp and tiktok! This makes it more important than ever, for us to push our children, or grandchildren, to not lose touch!
Sometimes just the act of talking can untangle our thoughts and help us see the light again. We can come away from a conversation with the weight lifted and our minds freed, as if we had just paid for a professional counselling session.
Talking is like a pressure valve, when we release it, it rebalances both our bodies and mind. Some people prefer to save difficult topics for a one-one therapist or their partner. Great, it’s still talking and helps to heal. It doesn’t matter who with, or where you do your talking, but please, just remember:
It’s good to talk!