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Yesterday (Thursday, 1st February) was Time to Talk Day, an initiative by Mind hk to encourage Hong Kong to talk about their mental health – similar to R U OK Day in Australia.

So, obviously, I’m a little slow off the mark with this, given that the Day was yesterday. I can’t keep up…these days there are days for this and days for that, and I think it’s great that people are being encouraged to open up about important things like mental health; or encouraged to find information, support, connection, testing or treatment for various traumatic life events, illnesses, losses or gains (Multiple Birth Awareness week, for example). A quick Google brings me various lists of awareness days/weeks/months, and in Australia alone, I counted 42…and that didn’t include the well-known Movember, so it is clearly not comprehensive!

So, this slight digression into lists brings me, sort of, to why I’m writing this the day after Time to Talk Day, and not ON Time to Talk Day. I can’t keep up! One minute I remember, then next I’m distracted and, the thought’s gone. It wasn’t until I was on the train on my way home that my attention was drawn back to it. As I was scrolling through Facebook (or maybe Instagram) on my phone, I saw some #timetotalkhk posts by a couple of my therapist friends. ARGHHH!!! I forgot (insert eye roll and steady flow of negative self talk about how I ALWAYS do this kind of thing)! 

When I realised I’d forgotten, my first instinct was to rush home and post something, anything, to show my support. But the more I slowed down and thought about it, the less I thought this was a good idea. What occurred to me, as I continued my journey home, was that it doesn’t really matter if I’m a day late to writing my thoughts about Time to Talk Day, or mental health. What does matter is that I participate in keeping the conversation going. I can do that publically or privately; in my home or at work; on social media or in person. Mind HK has started the conversation by launching Tiime to Talk Day. Now, we (mental health professionals, doctors, teachers, students, friends, lovers, parents, children…anyone…everyone) need to keep talking.

 Confession: I did post something – a ‘repost’ of one of Mind hk’s pictures, with a caption saying that I wanted to say more about it later…I’m not immune to the pressure to get it right! 

While being distracted and forgetful at times is not a major mental health crisis for me, being on top of things is something I wish I was better at. If left unchecked it could easily spiral into a negative belief about my whole self, which could then spiral further and who knows where it could end up. To counter this forgetfulness, I write notes and lists, I repeat things to myself. I share with others (especially people with good memories!). Sometimes things still slip through the cracks, but if I have these things in place, I can see a forgetful moment for what it is – a lapse, a distraction – rather than a character flaw or worse. It’s one way I look after my mental health.

Time to Talk Day was created to help to raise awareness of mental ill health, and to reduce the stigma surrounding it. If we can feel free to talk about our mental health struggles and triumphs, we can reduce the impact of shame that comes with it. This, hopefully, will lead to more people getting the support they need. According to Brené Brown, shame researcher & writer, shame thrives on silence, and cannot survive being spoken. So, Hong Kong, let’s keep the conversation going. It’s Time to Talk.

I’d love to hear your mental health stories. How do you look after your mental health? When have you managed to rise up against shame? How did you do it? What replaced it? What difference did it make in your life?

If you’d like to share your story, but remain anonymous, you can email me your stories at alison@integratehk.hk. Otherwise, please post in the comments.

If you have no-one you can talk to, please call the Samaritans on 2896 0000 (in HK), Lifeline (Australia) on 13 11 14, or crisis hotline in your city.