Category: Talk about mental health

Time to Talk Day 3rd February 2022

The annual Time to Talk Day is run by MIND and Rethink Mental Illness in England in partnership with the Co-op and aims to promote the idea that conversations have the power to change lives. It is important that we can develop a culture whereby we can all talk openly about mental health. The concept of empowering people to talk and aiming to remove the stigma associated with mental ill health has been a guiding principle here at Jonathan’s Voice and the reason for supporting this initiative.

The focus of the day is to encourage conversations about our mental well-being. However, it is important to remember that there is no right or wrong way to do this, but these tips may help:

  • Don’t wait for the perfect moment: rehearsing a conversation is probably not helpful and it is important that the conversation happens at a time and in a place that feels natural. Remember sometimes it is easier to talk about how we feel when we are doing something else e.g. driving walking, running or having a cup of coffee
  • Ask questions: and you may have to ask twice, as often people say they are fine when they are not. It is also important to ensure you listen to the answers
  • Talk about yourself: talking about how you feel can help create an atmosphere where people feel safe to discuss their feelings. This may also help them to recognise you will not be judgemental.
  • Approach the elephant in the room: Too often we are tempted to skirt the issue if we know someone has had time of work. You can raise the issue gently by asking things like “How are you now?”  or “You seem a bit quiet, how are things?”
  • It doesn’t have to be face to face: some people may find receiving a text or an email easier  

What might you or your organization do to mark Time to Talk Day and encourage conversations? MIND have a lot of very useful ideas and resources .

Take time to talk .

Looking Forward to Christmas?

The Christmas period can be a time of great happiness and fun for many people but can be very difficult for others. There will be those who feel a sense of obligation and over commitment to social activities they’d really rather not attend.  There will also be those who will experience loneliness or a deep sense of sadness because of the absence of those with whom they have spent past Christmases but have now lost through death or other forms of separation.

Each person and each person’s needs and emotions are different, but it is important for all of us that we look after ourselves and are kind to ourselves. “It’s ok not to be ok” at Christmas as at any other time, despite the messages we might be get from so many sources. If you don’t feel great, you’re not alone.

As well as being kind to ourselves, we can also be kind to each other. It has been demonstrated that showing kindness is not only good for the person to whom we are kind but has a positive impact on our own sense of wellbeing.

Whatever we might be feeling, we could express gratitude; taking time to thank someone who has shown kindness in the past year, sending a card, giving flowers or calling someone. These gestures can often lead to positive and unexpected consequences. We could notice the small things; bulbs just beginning to appear and days just starting to lengthen.

The Mental Health Foundation has advice for those who rather than being lonely or feeling bereft for whatever reason may feel there are too many things to do and overwhelmed by the festivities. These suggestions include:

  1. Balancing your sense of social obligations with the need to be kind to yourself.    
  2. Practising self-care and taking time to reflect on how you are feeling. Christmas can take a lot of time and energy. A return to work exhausted will not be the best way to start the New Year.
  3. Having realistic expectations about family gatherings, tensions can run high especially when everyone wants to have a happy time. If things are getting a little ‘tough’ take some time out and go for a walk or find a quiet space and read a book or listen to music.

Finally, If you need someone to talk to:

Samaritans. Call 116 123 available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) for men. Call 0800 58 58 58. 5pm to midnight every day.

Papyrus for people under 35. Call 0800 068 4141. 9 am to 10 pm weekdays, 2 pm to 10pm weekends and Bank Holidays.

Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide  (SOBS) for anyone who has been affected by death by suicide. Call  0300 111 5065. 9 am to 9 pm Monday to Sunday.

Mental Health First Aid at the IPO – hints, tips and lessons learnt

It was very interesting to hear Euros Morris of the IPO share the “hints, tips and lessons learnt” about Mental Health First Aid in his organization at the event organized with IP Inclusive.  Although the IPO is a much bigger organization than many IP firms there was nevertheless much to think about and reflect on. Euros emphasised the importance of employers buying in to MHFA and ensuring it has a high priority, of a MHF Aider having a buddy and of consistency in the way in which MHF Aiders in a particular firm operate. He addressed the importance of the MHF Aider creating clear boundaries without leaving the person who is seeking help without support. You can read more by going to the post on the IP Inclusive website  website event post


World Suicide Prevention Day September 10th 2021 – Creating Hope Through Action

Val McCartney, co-founder of the mental health charity Jonathan’s Voice writes

“Hope” might not be a word that immediately comes to mind when thinking about suicide. Indeed to those who have been recently bereaved by suicide, and for some for many years to come, it may be deeply antithetical to their feelings. Those on the edge who  feel completely entrapped and in deep emotional pain will feel despair rather than hope.

So why choose such a theme? It has been chosen because it is a theme that carries a very positive message. Professor Rory O’Connor, President of the International Suicide Prevention Association (ISPA) writes, “We believe that it will help us to instil light in those who have been touched by the darkness of suicide and self-harm. It also aims to inspire confidence in all of us, such that our actions, no matter how big or small, may provide hope to those who are struggling. The concept behind the theme is heavily rooted in the need to emphasise that it is possible to overcome feelings of hopelessness, that it is possible not only to survive but also to thrive in life. We can all play a role in supporting those experiencing a suicidal crisis or those bereaved by suicide” Professor O’Connor continues, “By creating hope through action such as providing a listening ear, signposting people to support services and sharing effective tools and resources to help cope, we can offer a solution other than suicide for those who can see no other alternative in a time of despair. By offering a glimmer of hope, we can and will save lives.”

Each individual or organization can take a step and make a difference, perhaps by asking someone how they are feeling. It may not feel easy to start a conversation but it’s important and could be crucial. One of the recent blogs on our website provides some guidance and signposts the reader to SIGNSS, a mental health conversation starter tool. In the past there was a myth that by asking someone about suicidal feelings you’re planting it into their head.  The evidence is clear that this is not the case. Professor O’Connor again, “asking those questions doesn’t cause harm but they can get people the help they require and hopefully lead to the support they need.”

Organizations can and should promote mentally healthy workplaces as an integral part of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. Jonathan’s Voice believes  that mental health, like any other aspect of inclusivity, is championed from the top.  The IP (Intellectual Property) Inclusive Senior Leaders’ Pledge is an excellent document to which the signatories have made a personal undertaking to its eight commitments. Is there something similar in your organization? Should there be?

We are an IP focused charity and would welcome the opportunity to speak with senior leaders in the IP sector to provide tailored advice and support for your organisation. This support is provided by mental health professionals and there is no charge. Please contact the team via our website  or email

Research continues into understanding suicidal behaviour, including why people see suicide as the only escape from the deep darkness they are experiencing. Jonathan’s Voice is proud to offer financial support to a research project at the Suicidal Behaviour Laboratory, University of Glasgow. led by Professor O’Connor. Susie Bennett, the researcher on this project, writes, “Male suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50 in Britain, and according to the Samaritans three-quarters of all suicides in 2018 were male. I want to build a greater understanding of what causes suicidal feelings and behaviours in men and what more can be done to help”; hope  through research.

NSPA (National Suicide Prevention Alliance) is promoting the theme of Hope through Action by inviting its members to share a few words about what “hope” means to them. These will be posted on their Twitter account throughout World Suicide Prevention Day.

This is my contribution.

“My hope and my firm belief, as a parent bereaved by suicide, is that through speaking out about my tragic experience and encouraging others to share their experiences, the stigma associated with mental health will be reduced. Such stigma so often prevents people getting the support they need. Those experiencing mental health challenges will know that it’s ok not to be o.k.”

We can all challenge stigma where we find it. We can all offer a listening ear or a kind word. We can all encourage our workplaces and communities to support those who are struggling

We can all create hope through our actions.

Resources, facts and figures, suggested activities and personal stories that your organization might find useful in promoting World Suicide Prevention Day are available at

Could talking to strangers change your life? (and theirs?)

Journalist Jamie Waters writing in the Observer discusses the growing body of research that suggests by striking up a conversation with a random person is actually good for you and can give you a small buzz.   He suggests that we mostly interact with people via phone, apps and social media and that this use of technology has made unplanned interactions with others awkward. This awkwardness has been further exacerbated by the pandemic, social distancing and the use of face masks.  Jamie undertakes to talk to as many strangers as possible over a two-week period, but indicates his concern in doing so, namely fear of them finding him annoying! The purpose is to see what happens when blinkers are removed and he opens himself to interact with unfamiliar faces.

Jamie indicates that it may seem simple but with no frame of reference it is a dance like no other, there is a need to really listen and watch the body language as you think about your responses. He found after the two weeks that that the act of noticing people in order to talk to them was very satisfying and meant he was better connected to the surroundings. He learnt to try different openings rather than the normal, “How are you?” to, “Is that a good book you are reading?” “Or I like your trainers”. Maybe this something we can try. The conversation mental health starter toolkit: SIGNSS maybe helpful as well

Jamie concludes by saying talking to strangers can make our lives happier, knottier and more colourful ‘but most of all it forces us to open our eyes’.      

Whilst the article indicates that by talking to strangers, we can make our lives happier and more colourful at Jonathan’s Voice we recognise the importance of being able to talk to someone and connecting with others in helping their and our own mental well- being.

Jackie Scruton


Thanks for this really interesting piece, Jackie. My experience is that there are far more people who have become dog owners during the pandemic. I have found that a comment (positive!) or a question about the dog always initiates a conversation which often leads to topics far beyond the initial question which I have found interesting and stimulating.

Val McCartney

A conversation is good

At Jonathan’s Voice we have promoted and advocated the need to keep talking about mental health and to empower individuals to speak up.   Often one of the hardest things in talking about mental health is starting the conversation.

How do you tackle this topic? Well, some ideas and help are at hand. “Thrive LDN” is a partnership between a number of statutory bodies and supported by the Mayor of London. It aims to improve the mental health and wellbeing of all Londoners. Their web site gives details of their campaigns, core activities and has a number of excellent resources.  One which is very relevant to the work of Jonathan’s Voice is their mental health conversation starter tool: SIGNSS.  The aim is to help support you through a series of clear stages to start, maintain and safely close a conversation about mental health. To this end the acronym is very helpful:

Situation: Using a situation to find common ground

Initiate: Initiating a caring conversation, asking direct questions

Guide: Being a good listener, without judgement

Nudge: Prompting with positive encouragement and practical suggestions

Support and signposts:   Sharing help and resources

To help underpin these stages there is a two-page fact sheet that gives you some suggestions for what to ask/say under each of the five headings. These on first glance seem to be very obvious, but often we need to be reminded that sometimes the obvious is not always the case. I found the sheet very useful in reminding me  of the importance of talking to family friends and work colleagues.  

Jackie Scruton