It goes without saying that the last year has been more strenuous than most for our mental health. We know a huge factor in this is that it has not been possible to socialise with our friends and family in the ways we are used to.

 To mark Time to Talk Day, which was founded to start conversations around our mental health and end the stigma, we’ve put together a list of tips for communicating with your loved ones when you can’t be in the same room.

 1) Do it in a way that’s right for you.

Use the method of communication that’s right for you. While Zoom, Houseparty and video calls have had a huge moment in the last year, if you prefer a phone call or even just messaging by text or email, stick to that!

 2) Schedule a time.

Make sure you’ve scheduled time and space to have a conversation where you can both listen to each other. While spontaneous catch-ups can be fun and work well, routine is hugely important to sustaining your mental health in lockdown and planning your call will help you stick to it. Just because everyone is at home does not mean they are always accessible, and respecting that will be enormously beneficial to each caller.

 3) Get creative!

We know that as life has slowed down, most of us have less updates on our daily lives. If this is the case, it’s sometimes easier to do an activity virtually instead of just talking. This could be a Netflix Watch Party, an album-listening club, an art lesson (check out Brixton Life Drawing) or a game!

If you want to specifically start a conversation about mental health with your support network then make sure:

 4) You’re focussed.

The person you are speaking to has your full attention and that they are giving you yours. It is especially important that you have scheduled a time for this conversation and that the person you are talking to is not busy or distracted.

 5) Don’t be afraid to ask twice.

When asked how they’re doing, most people will say they are fine. By following up with an 'Are you sure?' or 'You're safe to talk about your feelings with me.', you are giving them another chance to address their emotions.

 6) You’re both open, and open-minded.

If you want to talk about your own mental health, be open about how you feel, and how you’d like this person to support you. If you are starting a conversation with a family member or friend about their mental health, don’t worry if they don’t immediately open up to you. By letting them know you are available to talk if they need you, you are giving them the opportunity to come to you when they are ready.

 7) Beware of technical issues!

Technical issues can be the most difficult part of having discussions when you’re not able to see someone in person! Ensure your internet connection and signal are the strongest they could possibly be, before starting any serious conversations.

For further advice, check out these tips on how to look after your mental health during the pandemic.

Remember, If you’re worried, always get professional help.

If you think that you, or anyone you know is feeling suicidal then please contact Samaritans on 116 123 for free.