“I don’t think you’re going mad. But I know that’s how it feels”
“Nothing you’ve told me makes me think that you’re going mad,” I say. “I work with lots of people with similar difficulties. What you are experiencing is very common”.
This is my most used line in my psychology clinic. And often the most powerful and reassuring. It’s because it’s true. But we live in an increasingly airbrushed world. Where we share what’s good. And we gloss over the bad. We don’t talk about the real stuff. It doesn’t look so good on Instagram.
Mental health difficulties are common. They affect thousands of people in the UK, and their friends, families and work colleagues. One in four people will experience a mental health problem at some point in their lives. 450 million people world-wide have a mental health difficulty. That’s a lot of people.
But the good news is that most of us get better. Or we find ways to adjust and get by. Especially if we get help early on. But so much is pushing against us. The strong social stigma. Associated discrimination. And of course we may not want to talk to a stranger in a clinic. But that’s often all that’s available. Not to mention the waiting list.
If only my patients could speak to each other. And not just my patients. But my friends. Those who speak to me because I’m a clinical psychologist. But who don’t speak to each other.
The friend in the City who consistently wakes at 3am with anxiety. The party-goer who drinks that little bit too much. Every evening. The Mum I met who’s fearful of traffic. And the recreational drug user whose life is becoming dictated by the habit.
Problem Solving Booths nudge the conversations to happen. They are a prop to get us talking. They help us realise that we all struggle sometimes. And often with the same things. And that knowing this helps. And we feel good when we help others too. And no matter who we are, we all have something to offer.
People say this when they come out of the booth. But the research backs it up too. The best way to challenge mental health stigma is to meet others who have troubles too. It’s to talk.
Problem Solving Booths aren’t about doing therapy on the street. They are about being human. About listening to each other. And responding as ourselves.
The best conversations don’t actually solve anything. They are the conversations that nudge us to think differently. But what’s most important of all is that two strangers are talking. They are having a good, old-fashioned chat.
And it’s not about the way to the station. But about their mental wellbeing. They are connecting through the things that we don’t usually talk about. And that’s pretty cool.
This is the second in a five-part series explaining the concept of Problem Solving Booths. Find out more at www.problemsolvingbooths.com