Mental health advocate encourages people to open up on Time to Talk Day

A Wandsworth mental health advocate is sharing her experience with depression in a campaign to encourage people to be open about their wellbeing.

Paige Ashton, 26, a financial controller for a major IT company, participated in Time to Talk Day 2022 on 3 February, run by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness.  

Ashton first experienced depression and feelings of dissociation at 13 when her parents went through a lengthy and difficult divorce.

She continued to have trouble throughout school and university.  

Although Ashton received six counselling sessions at university, she ultimately confided in her father after experiencing suicidal thoughts at 23.

That conversation encouraged her to seek help.

Ashton said: “The first conversation I had about my mental health was with my dad.

“And whilst he didn’t necessarily have the knowledge to help me himself, it was through this conversation and thanks to his support that I sought help from my GP and entered treatment.

“He continues to be one of the people I speak with about how I am doing and, without him, I would never have recovered.”

Ashton, like many people across the UK, has struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nearly half of adults surveyed in Greater London as part of Time to Talk Day said their mental health got worse during the pandemic.

One in 11 have not talked to anyone about it.

As part of Time to Talk Day, mental health ‘champions’ from Time to Change Kingston, a movement to end mental health stigma, distributed free self-care goodie bags in the centre of Kingston-upon-Thames.

CEO of Mind in Kingston Rianne Eimers said volunteers gave away nearly 100 bags and shared their mental health experiences.

The bags contained hot chocolate mixes, journals illustrated by a Time to Change advocate, and other items proposed by champions.

Eimers said: “It’s a really good opportunity to promote what we do and reach out to people who may never had had that opportunity to talk about mental health in a way where they’re not judged, where it’s safe for them to talk.”

Time to Talk Day 2022 was also supported by Co-op, which is raising £8m to fund over 50 mental wellbeing services across the UK.

Ashton said she hopes people reach out to friends and loved ones they might be worried about.

Ashton said: “I wish those close to me had brought up the conversation first – it would have reduced the pressure of feeling I was admitting to something.

“If you make the conversation feel natural and supportive you will help your loved one want to open up to you.”

If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide or in need of mental health support, you can contact the Samaritans helpline on 116 123 or the National Suicide Prevention Helpline on 0800 689 5652.

Both are free and available 24 hours.

Featured image provided by Mind, used with permission from Paige Ashton

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