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Mental Health

Conversations Save Lives

Why do we struggle to talk about mental health? How to use the Blob Tree to open up about our inner thoughts and feelings.

Hannah Clemens

Feb 1st, 2023

Most of us know this scenario:

Someone asks us how we are, we nod, smile, and then reply ‘Fine, and you?’. They say the same and the conversation quickly moves elsewhere.

Now, if you think about it - in how many cases is your reply an honest one? Or the other way around - how many times do you say you’re fine, when really you aren’t? There actually is something on your mind but you choose not to disclose it?

Personally, I find myself in above scenario probably over 50% of the time I talk to someone close to me. Many thoughts tend to pop into my head such as ‘They won’t have time to listen’. ‘I don’t want to bother them with my issues’. ‘What will they think of me?’. ‘I should manage this alone’. ‘They can’t help me anyway’. The list goes on.

Are there any of these thoughts that resonate with you?

So, why do we struggle to talk about our wellbeing?

1 in 4 of us experience mental health issues each year, so clearly it's important to talk about it. Both for our own and others' wellbeing. Yet, we struggle to have those conversations. But why?

Stigma. Generally speaking, stigma is when a person or a group is viewed in a negative way because of a certain trait or characteristic they possess. Unfortunately, negative attitudes and beliefs towards people struggling with their mental health are still very prevalent and make it really difficult to open up.

Not wanting to burden others. There can be a fear that our loved ones become overwhelmed or hurt when we share our struggles with them.

Fear of being treated differently. We might worry about other people's reactions to the things we say to them. For example, we might fear that they become overly friendly and give us preferential treatment. Or that they won't invite us to things or stop trusting us. 

Not knowing who to talk to. We might feel like we can't talk to our friends & family as they won't understand. Often there is a lack of knowledge about other support options and resources to get help.

Helplessness. While it can be really difficult to know where to start in getting support, we might also think that nothing can be done to help us or that there’s no cure for what we’re experiencing. 

The truth is there are many reasons why someone doesn't talk about their wellbeing. Especially men struggle to do so:

A recent survey by Priory reported that 40% of the men in their cohort had never spoken to anyone about their mental health. When asked about the reasons, 40 % of those men reported that they 'learned to deal with it', 36% 'didn't wish to burden anyone' and 29% were 'too embarrassed' to speak about it. 

Opening up the conversation: The Blob Tree

The best way to start talking about mental health and wellbeing with those around us is little and often. We can only reduce the stigma and normalise mental health if we make it an integral part of our conversations.

One simple and effective tool to ease into those conversations, both at home and in the workplace, is the Blob Tree.

Tree-like diagram representing the Blob Tree

What is it?

The Blob Tree, developed by the famous British psychologist Pip Wilson, is a fun self-reflection tool to help us explore and express our feelings. It consists of twenty-one blobs on a tree, all representing different emotions, feelings or states. 

The idea is to take a good look at the tree and choose the blob that best represents us right now. These blobs can be understood in many different ways - so there is no right or wrong about our choice.

How can it be used to start conversations?

The idea is to use the Blob Tree to create a safe space for people to share how they are currently feeling and to build up their confidence in talking about wellbeing. In the workplace, it can be used at the beginning of team meetings to check in with each other and understand how your colleagues turn up to the meeting.

Simply print the Blob Tree or share it via your screen and ask your team to pick a blob and describe why they chose it. It really is a great way to create a culture of openness and proactively look after the mental health and wellbeing of yourself and those around you.

So, where do you sit on the Blob Tree today?

Time to Talk #Timetotalk is a national day of conversation about mental health and wellbeing. For more resources or join in the conversation on the 2nd February 2023, visit https://timetotalkday.co.uk/

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