Here’s How You Can Support Someone’s Mental Health This Christmas In Just 20 Minutes

By Sarah Wishart, Creative Director 24 Dec 2018

Just before writing this piece I took a free online training course, Suicide Let’s Talk. It took just 20 minutes to do, but, in less than half an hour, I know I feel much more confident about how I could support someone’s mental health. 

I first discovered the project after interviewing suicide prevention campaigner Angela Samata. Also the presenter of the BBC’s award-winning BBC documentary Life After Suicide, Angela helped develop the course after her own husband died by suicide 15 years ago.

“This is about the ambition to train everybody,” she told me as we chat in her hometown of Liverpool. “Hairdressers, taxi drivers, barbers. Everybody we tell our secrets to, to be able to have a conversation with someone who may be experiencing a suicidal crisis.”

“I would like everybody in the world to be trained,” she continued. She’s already made a strong start – 20,000 people have completed the online course so far.

‘This Is About The Ambition To Train Everybody’

Angela Samata (Left) developed the course after the death of her husband. (Image Credit: Angela Samata)

For a subject typically considered so heavy, the course is anything but daunting. Featuring interviews from people affected by suicide, it also runs through different scenarios and tips on how to talk to people going through a crisis.

At its core, it aims to give you the confidence to spot someone who might be feeling suicidal and know what to do next; whether that’s being confident in how to talk to them, assessing the situation or pointing them to other resources and support.

At its core, it aims to give you the confidence to spot someone who might be feeling suicidal and know what to do next.

The training, which is a collaboration between NHS Trusts, businesses and individuals, is just one facet of the care system around mental health and our human rights. Just as with our physical wellbeing, healthcare is protected in a number of ways.

The World Health Organisation, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (which the UK is signed up too), all specifically single out a right to healthcare, and it’s also part of our right to life as part of the Human Rights Act.

However, that doesn’t mean that care in the UK is perfect, with many hospitals and care organisations bound by the amount of funding they receive. While the latest Government budget announced an extra £2 billion a year for mental health services by 2023, patients can still face delays of up to four months to get treatment, with an analysis from the Royal College of Psychiatrists finding trusts had less money to spend on patient care than they did five years ago.

Trusts have less money to spend now than they did five years ago.

Royal College of Psychiatrists

Similarly, a report by the Parliamentary and Health Service ombudsman highlighted several failings in NHS mental health services, with issues around misdiagnosis and in the way people are being cared for after they’ve been discharged from hospital.

Healthcare is intrinsically linked to funding, to the economy, and to austerity, with any shortfall having a tangible and devastating effect on patients. It isn’t for the public to try and cover this lack of investment, but training courses like Angela’s go a long way in helping you to recognise the signs, and know where to go for support.

Christmas Can Be A Challenging Time of Year

a Christmas dinner which people are helping themselves too

Image Credit: Chris Adderly / Pexels

It might seem somewhat unfestive, but this time of year could actually be the perfect time to do this training.

The pressure is on – all the ‘shoulds‘ are out in force. You should be feeling full of fun and excitement and full of seasonal good cheer. You should be with family. You should be having lots of big celebrations.

But this can also be a stressful, highly pressured time of year, or a desperately lonely period when people might find it difficult to cope. The season itself, outside of human celebrations, has a part to play with less sunlight and colder weather and issues like seasonal affective disorder (SAD) making an impact on people.

People might not be feeling ‘festive’ but they often feel like they should so that they don’t bring anyone else down. And if someone is dealing with depression, when you add all these ‘shoulds‘ to that mix, this time of year can look very bleak indeed.

It’s the reason comedian Sarah Millican set up her own seasonal online campaign eight years ago. Using the hashtag #joinin she helps to connect people on their own at Christmas, and enable people who feel alone to chat with one another.

And, it doesn’t have to be taxing. “I post what I’m watching on the telly, so that those alone can watch the same and we can have The Queen or Eastenders based banter,” explains Millican.

Similar to the Zero Suicide Alliance training, it might not feel like a lot of effort, but setting aside just a quarter of an hour can make a huge difference to someone else’s life, especially when the pressure of the festive season piles on.

So, whatever you’re doing this festive season, when you find a quiet lull why not take some time to #joinin or take Angela’s training? We’ve got the whole world to train after all.

Featured Image: Maria Brauer / Unsplash

About The Author

Sarah Wishart Creative Director

Sarah Wishart is EachOther's Creative Director.

Sarah Wishart is EachOther's Creative Director.