Today, I attended my first training session to become a Time to Change Wales champion and I’ll admit it, initially, I was apprehensive about the whole thing. I had no idea what being a champion entailed, what I would need to do as one nor whether I would be able to do it. But, now that I’ve finished my first day of training, I can safely say that I’m not only perfectly capable of doing everything that a Time to Change champion does, but that I’m incredibly excited about being one.
Who are Time to Change Wales?
So, who will I be working for?
Time to Change Wales is a partnership between three of Wales’ leading mental health charities (Gofal, Hafal and Mind Cymru) that aims to end the stigma and discrimination faced by anyone with a mental health condition. They do this by running community projects, delivering mental health training, campaigning to get mental health on the political agenda, and promoting mental health in the media all in the hopes of spreading the word about mental health and addressing the common misunderstandings surrounding these conditions throughout society.
So, what does a Time to Change Wales Champion do?
And where do I fit in with that?
Quite easily, actually. Time to Change Wales champions are all volunteers who have some form of experience of mental health – whether that means that they have some form of mental health condition themselves or that they have experience caring for someone with one. They work at the frontlines of the organisation to help tackle the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health by campaigning in the media, sharing their experiences or participating in events in their local community.
So, in my new role, I could now be asked to engage in social media campaigns, give media interviews, deliver training and talks, and participate in a wide variety of events and activities across Wales, which makes for incredibly exciting times!
Why do we need Time to Change Wales and its champions?
Because it is so incredibly important. Believe it or not, despite the hard work of many different mental health organisations, mental health is still surrounded with a significant amount of prejudice, ignorance, stigma and discrimination.
The Stigma Shout survey carried out by Time to Change Wales showed that 87% of people with mental health conditions reported the negative impact that stigma and discrimination had on their daily lives to the extent that they can find it difficult to hold down a job, build up relationships and engage in social activities. In fact, many people with mental health conditions have reported that this stigma and discrimination is often worse than the illness itself.
If you’re still not convinced, here are some key facts and statistics from the Time to Change Wales website that will show you just what people with mental health conditions are facing in their daily lives:
- 1 in 4 people have a mental health problem.
- 300 people die by suicide each year in Wales and 150,000 have thought of suicide.
- The overall cost of mental health problems in Wales is an estimated £7.2 billion a year.
- Fewer than 4 in 10 employers would consider hiring a person with a mental health problem compared with more than 6 in 10 who would hire a person with a physical disability.
- 4 in 10 employees are afraid to disclose mental health problems to their employer.
- 1 in 10 who disclosed a mental health problem said colleagues made snide remarks.
- Over a quarter of people said that being around someone with mental illness can make them feel uncomfortable.
- Nearly 1 in 10 people believe that people with mental health problems should not be given any responsibility.
- 1 in 7 believe that people with a mental illness can never fully recover.
- 66% of people in Wales would not rent a room in a shared flat to someone with a mental health condition.
- 1 in 10 people believe that people with mental health problems are less trustworthy than people without.
- 1 in 10 people believe that people with mental health problems should not be allowed to have children.
How can I get involved?
The whole point of Time to Change Wales is to create a society where having or talking about mental health conditions is not something to be ashamed of, and there are plenty of things that you can do to help achieve this aim.
- Get involved on social media: Something as simple as sharing a Time to Change Wales Facebook or Twitter post can help raise awareness around mental health.
- Become a champion: All it takes is five minutes to fill in a quick, online form. There are no obligations on you nor on your time as a champion. You can do as much as little as you want to do and you only do whatever you feel comfortable doing.
- Talk: Something as simple as checking in on someone you know with a mental health condition can be incredibly effective in providing the support that they need. Even if you don’t know someone with a mental health condition, just speaking openly about mental health can help break down the misunderstandings surrounding these conditions in society and can do the world of good in tackling the stigma that people with mental health conditions face.