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Image credit: Time to Change Blog

This week the University of Hertfordshire (UH) participated in the national ‘Time To Talk’ campaign led by Time to Change, England’s biggest programme to challenge mental health stigma and discrimination. UH staff and students were asked to tweet using the hashtag #TimeToTalk and UH Student Wellbeing Services re-tweeted us throughout the day. Although Thursday, 6 February, was the official date, the aim is to keep the conversation going.

I was delighted — though not at all surprised: in the short time I’ve been here, I have been impressed by the genuine care expressed for the welfare of staff and students —  that the University took part in the national event.

I have battled with depression on and off for years (though thankfully things are good right now). Some bouts have been worse than others. At no point has it impeded my ability to do my job (in fact, I’ve often described my work as the one bright spot on the horizon). But the idea of ‘high-functioning depression’ is hard to comprehend for those who have not experienced or who have little understanding of depression.

I welcome campaigns like ‘Time to Talk’ because of the openness they can encourage. And with that openness hopefully brings a better understanding of depression, anxiety and other mental health issues, helping to undermine stigma and counter mis-conceptions.  As I wrote in my own tweet for 6 February:

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And while talking is so important, I know from experience that a person will only open up if there’s someone they can talk to. Someone who isn’t going to tell them ‘snap out of it’ or ‘there are bigger problems in the world’. Even when said with the best of intentions, these expressions are not only useless, they’re also damaging.  And being brutally honest, the response of ‘I don’t know what to say’ is an utter cop-out. With mental health awareness sites growing rapidly on the internet, there is no excuse not to learn more about how to support and interact with a colleague, friend or loved-one who is suffering. One in four of us will be affected by mental illness each year.

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Let’s keep the conversation going.