Making time

xmas3One of the simplest things people do that improves our wellbeing – and a way that we can improve others’ wellbeing – is through making time. This can be making time to listen, to get to know someone, It’s a small act which can leave someone feeling wanted and valued.

In our Birth Companions work , we heard how the organisation’s volunteers visit the women on an individual basis and without a fixed agenda. They don’t assume they know what’s best for them; they take the time and get to know them and offer support in the way the women prefer to be supported. As a result, many women in the interviews said that they felt listened to and valued.

In our Pregnancy and medication study  we heard how some participants’ midwives or psychiatrists made the time to get to know and to listen to them, going out of their way to let them know they were not alone in making decisions about medication. This effort made participants feel more valued and cared about as they dealt with the decisions they had to make around taking medication.

Having someone make the time to listen to you has been shown to be an effective mental health treatment. Talking therapy services have been shown to improve outcomes for people with severe mental illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar and psychosis but at present many are not getting the psychological treatments they need. The IAPT for SMI programme aims to change this, extending the benefits of talking therapies to people with severe mental illness. The McPin Foundation are doing an evaluation of this a programme.

Case Study: “I find it particularly helpful when someone has taken the time to find out what improves my mental wellbeing”

Julie Billsborough_resizedWhen I was really unwell, one of the things that helped me the most was a friend who took the time to listen to me. She was a shoulder to cry on when I needed it. She also took the time to get to know me, to find out what I liked – the things that made me feel more cheerful. She would ‘phone and invite me out for a walk or a trip to the cinema. Encouraging me to do things I liked made all the difference and made me feel wanted.

I find it particularly helpful when someone has taken the time to find out what improves my mental wellbeing. It’s often the small things that help… a ‘phone call, someone listening to what I have to say, visiting me… these are things that make me feel valued. I’d much prefer to receive a phone call (say, from a friend I rarely see), than to receive an expensive present, however nice the present.

Encouragement can help too. Recently, a friend remarked, “You seem a bit stressed today. Why don’t you visit the town museum? There’s a really good art exhibition on at the moment.” He knew I like art and found it relaxing to visit a gallery. I visited the exhibition, enjoyed it immensely and felt better for my trip out.

Julie Billsborough, Researcher, McPin Foundation

Practical tips

  • People with mental health problems can become isolated and can feel that no-one cares about them. If you know someone who is mentally unwell, and you know they would appreciate a ‘phone call, make time and give them a ring.
  •  What helps someone’s mental health is very individual. Don’t assume you know what’s best for someone’s mental wellbeing. If you don’t know what helps, ask them, and listen. It could make all the difference.