Nicole, who was a Time to Change Youth Champion when the campaign was still active, talks about how writing letters helped her feel connected to others.
A spoken conversation can sometimes be difficult, but a conversation about mental health does not need to be spoken. Sometimes writing can have just as, if not more, of an impact than speaking.
When I first started therapy, I was asked to write letters to myself and also to the illness. This helped me express my thoughts and feelings without actually talking.
I then started blogging, and my therapeutic letters soon turned into daily posts, reflections and conversations with others who had been or were going through a similar experience.
Having a mental illness can be very isolating, so allowing myself to have this connection with others was a huge step towards my recovery. After a while, these online conversations turned into written conversations. I posted and received letters and cards, conversing with penpals that gave me friendship in what felt like a mist of loneliness.
I remember thinking about how these letters and cards made me feel and wondered if I could bring this closer to home. So I began to write letters to my family and friends, something I had done here and there before but never in-depth. I began to write to my parents explaining how I felt, allowing them to gain some sort of understanding, and they began to write back.
"When the illness was so strong at pushing people away, writing allowed me to let people in."
Postcards, letters, cards, poems and even post-it notes, short and long, each one reminding me I was not alone.
Having a mental illness can make you feel very alone, and having something, no matter how small, that makes you feel not so alone can completely change your life. It gives you a feeling of warmth when all you have felt is cold.
"Without these written conversations, I do not believe I would have been able to feel such a connection with those around me or those afar."
I cherish each and every word and have each placed it into a scrapbook, which is now bursting at the seams. From my great-grandmother's cards, poems from my father and even letters from my younger brother, it seems I am not the only one who finds it easier to write.
Talking to somebody experiencing ill mental health does not need to be difficult and definitely not ignored. Words can let people feel less alone, a feeling that can truly change a person's life. It does not need to be fancy, a simple, 'how are you?' or 'I saw this card and thought of you.' letting people know you are there, spoken, written or even a text, all have the power to create change.
Also, we all have mental health, and I know that well, or not words can give people the little 'pick me up' they need. Writing notes and sending letters is something that I still do, and it continues to give me a feeling of warmth.
Starting a conversation today could change someone's life. Whether you want to talk or write, get talking about mental health.
Read about stigma
Blogs and stories can show that people with mental health problems are cared about, understood and listened to. We can use it to challenge the status quo and change attitudes.