This week’s mental health series blog is going to explore a key element in looking after your mental health – talking!

Whether you’re suffering with a long term mental illness, exam stress, or are having difficulties with people close to you, talking can be a great help. Talking can be difficult, from figuring out who to talk to, to finding the right time, to working out what to say … it’s rarely simple or easy.

Talking about your feelings or struggles can be scary. For a lot of people, it can leave them feeling vulnerable and open to judgement. Some people may feel that their problems aren’t important or they don’t want to burden others. You don’t need to feel that way.

So how will talking help?

Often, we feel like we are the only person feeling a certain way, which can leave us feeling isolated. In fact, we all experience tough times and most can relate to each other’s feelings in some way. By talking about what you’re going through, you may find someone in the same boat, and feel less alone.

Facing tough times can also feel like we are carrying a weight around. As you’ll know, when you physically carry something, the longer you carry it, the heavier it feels. The same is true of carrying around our mental and emotional struggles. Talking about what you’re going through, or how you are feeling, can help ease this weight.

Do I have to actually talk?

Not at all. For many people, saying things out loud is just too difficult. If you find that you’re are struggling to speak out loud, writing things down or typing is okay too. Some people find that writing a journal, or writing letters to a person can help.

Who can I talk to?

This is entirely up to you, but finding someone you can trust can help you feel more comfortable.

Friends – If you have a friend or friends you trust, talking to them can help. Often, our peers are going through similar experiences. Not only might they understand, and empathise with how you are feeling, but they may be able to share things that have helped them. Try talking to your friends when you have some peace together, talking about difficult things is often even harder if you’re in the middle of a busy school cafeteria, or at a party.

Family – This could be parents, a sibling, or an extended relative, the key is trusting that person to support you. Although it can be hard to talk to family, they can be an excellent source of support. You may feel that older family members ‘won’t get it’, but their experiences could surprise you. Don’t forget, adults were young people once, too!

School – Many young people develop trust with teachers, or other staff at their schools. As well as the other benefits of talking already mentioned, talking to a teacher could get you support at school if you need it, especially if you’re finding school work difficult or are worrying about exams. Many schools also have a school counsellor, who you can meet, without people knowing unless you tell them.

A medical professional – If you are going through a difficult time, and don’t feel you can talk to someone you know, speaking to your doctor can help. A lot of people think that doctors will jump straight to prescribing medication, but that’s not true. Especially with young people, your doctor can help put you in touch with people who can support you. There is a whole service through the NHS dedicated to supporting young people – CAMHS or ‘Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services’. Their services are tailored to support young people, and can cater to your needs.

Support charities – There are lots of charities that offer support to children and young people. Most of these will be around specific issues, which can give you excellent support and advice with their designated issue. The only service (in the UK) which offers support to young people with any issue, 24/7, is Childline. Run by the NSPCC, you can call them for free (on 0800 1111), or chat to a counsellor online.

If you take one thing from this blog, it is important to know that what you’re going through or feeling is valid, and you deserve to get support. You can do so on your own terms, in a way that works for you, and doing so can ease all manner of worries and difficulties.

Next week, we’ll be exploring how different creative outlets can help you care for your mental health.