Head and Heart Full: “Time to Talk” 2015

Newcastle city centre, 5 February 2015

Newcastle city centre, 5 February 2015

“May I be excused, please? My brain is full.” – Caption from a “Far Side” cartoon

By the end of Thursday’s “Time to Talk” day in Newcastle, both my head and my heart were filled to overflowing.

At times, my emotions can be quite close to the surface. It’s how I mainly experience my bipolar these days. Part way through the “lived experience” talks, and most of the films, I found my eyes tearing up. The temptation to run out of the room crossed my mind more than once.

A criticism? Far from it. I, and most of the audience, also laughed many times during the films, and the talks by the “Time to Change Champions”, who shared their personal experiences of mental health.

I hugged several volunteers. Not this chap. Daleks aren't big on volunteering.

I hugged some volunteers. Not this chap I met in Newcastle, though.

Not long after I arrived at “Disability North”, the room began buzzing as people signed in, grabbed a coffee or tea and, of course, began to chat. Angela, the event organiser, put some “Time to Change” films on. To give us something more to talk about. Not to discourage conversation.

It was “Time to Talk” day, after all.

Schizo“, a mock-horror film on the realities of living with schizophrenia, received a good reception. When “The Stand Up Kid” came on, the room quickly fell silent, save for the sounds of a lad talking to his classmates on his first day back at school, after being off with depression. The film is also a powerful depiction of the sort of stigma – bullying, really – which people with mental health problems can experience at the hands of the cruel, and the ignorant.

It was an experience the “Time to Change Champion” who spoke to the audience at Thursday’s event knew only too well. My mental health troubles came later in life than his. Nor did I have to live through the horrors which he did. Nevertheless, there were enough similarities that not only did my eyes fill up again, but, once again, I considered leaving the room.

I stayed. And I, and the rest of the people present, gave this true “Champion” the appreciation he deserved: our tears, our laughter, and our heart-felt applause.

If in this blog I seem to bang-on about mental health in general, and bipolar in particular, well, there’s a reason.

I’ve seen what mental health – and the stigma around it – can do to people’s lives, and the lives of those who care about them. I’ve talked to people who’ve been, and are, there.

And I’ve been there myself, more times than I care to remember.

It’s still “Time to Change”. And there’s always “Time to Talk”.

Cuppa and a bun, anyone?

A delightful mural from a Newcastle cafe, where I chatted about mental health with friends

A delightful mural from a Newcastle cafe, where some friends and I chatted about mental health


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