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Small Interactions Matter – It’s Time to Talk
Thursday 6th February is ‘Time to Talk’ day. This is a promotion run by the Time to Change campaign led by Rethink and Mind. The thinking behind the campaign is that small interactions matter, and for people with mental health problems, it’s not necessarily major interventions by health care professionals that make a difference, it could be small everyday conversations with ordinary people that have a real impact and might be a key factor in recovery.
You may have read about the campaign to ‘find Mike’ that has received world-wide press coverage. The story behind the campaign is told by Jonny Benjamin who has schizo-affective disorder. Almost exactly 6 years ago, Jonny was standing on the edge of Waterloo Bridge, acutely distressed and about to jump in the river, when a stranger passing by started to talk to him, offered him a coffee and a chance to chat and think about what he was doing. Jonny took up the offer, and started on a process of recovery. Jonny launched the campaign to show others that the small act of listening helped saved his life.
Small conversations matter
I’ve sometimes run a training exercise about communication with mental health support workers, asking them to think about an interaction they had with someone recently, however small, that made them feel better, and think about why. What was it that the person said, or the way they said it, that made a difference? It’s not necessarily about the depth of content of the conversation, it may be somebody was unexpectedly helpful, or what they said snapped you out of thinking about something else, or put things into perspective. Understanding the principles of effective communication is important in mental health work, but in many ways we can identify those principles through our own experience.
Back to Jonny – his campaign using press and social media has received such widespread coverage that earlier this week Jonny was reunited with Mike – whose real name is Neil Laybourn. This is a great personal story for Jonny and Neil, but hopefully sends a wider message to people in distress that recovery is possible, and for all of us reinforces the message that small interactions do matter.
Time to talk
Most interactions aren’t going to have the significance of Jonny’s story, but a lot of the positive stories being related by the Time to Talk campaign is that conversations need not be about mental health at all. If you want to find more about the campaign to find Mike, visit the Rethink website at: http://www.rethink.org/foundmike or to discover what’s going on during ‘Time to Talk’ day, visit the Time to Change website at: http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/talk-about-mental-health.