Time to Talk Day 2021: A letter to my younger self

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Our Wellbeing Intern Sarah Holt writes a letter to her younger self, telling her everything she wishes she’d known about opening up to her friends and family. 

This Thursday is Time to Talk Day, which hopes to normalise and encourage more conversations about mental health. The more conversations we have, the more barriers we can break down; helping to end the isolation and shame associated with mental health. Around 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem this year, yet there is still so much silence that surrounds mental health, and it is often a weight that people feel they must carry alone.

Initiating a conversation about mental health can be difficult, but so can mustering up the strength to open up and ask for help. When I was younger, I was so embarrassed for people to know that I struggled with my mental health. It was something that I wanted to hide when I arrived at University. If I could go back in time, I wish I had wasted less energy worrying about what people would think of me.

I spent far too long denying my friends the opportunity to get to know the real me, so for Time to Talk Day I wanted to write a letter to my younger self, telling her everything I wish I had known about opening up to those around me: 

Dear Sarah,

I know how much you are carrying right now, and how you are attempting to do it alone. You find things more difficult than those around you. But I want you to know that it’s okay to find things difficult, it doesn’t mean you’re not capable. 

It’s hard to be honest with other people. You’re scared of judgement and people thinking less of you. You lie about why you need longer on your assignments or why you needed to spend another weekend at home.

When you imagined starting University, you wanted to completely reinvent yourself, and deny every part of yourself that you’re embarrassed by. You wished that all the anxieties you’re ashamed of would be left at home, no longer a burden to you or the new friends you hope to make. But I want to tell you, trying to hide these parts of yourself only adds to the heavyweight already on your shoulders. Trying to carry this alone doesn’t make it disappear.

Stop beating yourself up for needing help. You’re surrounded by people who are more than happy to be there for you and support you through this. You don’t have to be confident or happy all the time. People will love you for being exactly who you are. 

You have so much to offer to everyone around you, and I’m so excited for you to learn this. 

I know you tell yourself that no one will care. I know that you’ve had trouble opening up to people before, but don’t deny the people in your life a chance to know every part of you; even the parts you don’t like yourself. 

As it turns out, opening up to your friends and the people around you will allow you to create some of the closest friendships of your life. You’ll finally be able to be yourself, and the things that you once thought were your hindrance, are actually your greatest strengths. 

You can start slowly if you want to. Maybe just send a text, telling someone how you’re feeling. You can even try a helpline if everyone you know is asleep or you don’t feel like you have anyone else to talk to. It’s not as scary as you anticipate, and you’ll actually be comforted by the fact that there is always someone there to listen. Your confidence will slowly build up and soon you’ll be able to call a friend or family member instead. You will get better and better at challenging your self-doubt, and soon enough you’ll be so confident about starting conversations about mental health, you’ll be writing articles about it. 

Be the change that you wish you could have seen. Start conversations and let everyone around you know that their mental health is nothing to hide. Believe it or not, you’ll soon find people who struggle just like you, and you’ll be so grateful that your experience will make them feel less alone. 

See you soon,

Sarah x

For more information on mental health support, please read our Mental Health Support page for resources and links to our support services, or use the contacts below:

Health Assured 24/7 Helpline: Our new 24/7 mental health support phone line and app means there is always someone available to offer support – whatever time of day or night.

The Counselling and Mental Health Service: You can try these resources in the first instance. If you need to talk to someone, please complete this online questionnaire. You can then call their appointment line on 0161 275 2864between 10.30am-1.30pm (Monday – Friday), stating the colour suggested on completing the questionnaire and you will be booked-in for the next day. For urgent support out of  working hours please click here.

Greater Manchester Mental Health 24/7 Helpline: Ring freephone 0800 953 0285 for round the clock mental health support.

The Samaritans: Freephone 116 123 or 0161 236 8000 charged at local rate. Available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to talk confidentially about any problem, however big or small

Papyrus: 0800 068 4141

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