“It sucks when you’re ignored by the person whose attention is the only thing you want in the world” – Unknown

Last week was Nightline Awareness Week here in the UK.

For those of you who are not familiar with Nightline, it is a confidential listening, support and practical information service for students; with regional branches throughout the UK. They aim to be a listening ear and a place of acceptance, where no student will be stigmatized or ignored.

The theme for this year’s awareness campaign went under the banner of “Break the Silence”. Whether it is regarding mental and/or physical health, academic struggles, family difficulties, abuse, self-harm or suicide, all topics need and deserve to be talked about; and having someone to turn to can make a tremendous difference for both the service user and the Nightline volunteer.

So when the publicity material began appearing on social media I initially felt a strong sense of gratitude. I felt happy that these kind of topics are given the attention they so desperately need and I am so thankful that there are people out there who are campaigning for a more open, compassionate and accepting society. In the wake of the political changes that have occurred in the last few months it seemed like a safe point to fall back on, regardless of where one might stand on such issues.

However, the more “Break the Silence” posts I came across, it got me to thinking…

Preventing stigma and urging people to open up about what may be bothering them is really good but I find that most forget how difficult it can be to find someone you can open up to. Just as we campaign for everyone’s right to talk about what they are going through, we need to campaign for people to actively take the time to listen; regardless of how insignificant or difficult the topic may be.

If you find it difficult to open up to people, what would happen if, when you finally find the courage to turn to someone, they respond with a statement such as “I’m sorry to hear that but I’m sure it’ll all work out for you”. Would you feel able to continue the conversation if you were met by such a response?

Since I am part of a family where we do not talk about how we are feeling, whatsoever… opening up and being honest with people about how I am feeling has been a personal struggle of mine for quite some time. Only now am I slowly finding it easier to admit the truth to others and I am really trying to open up to someone when I need to.

Whenever I have contacted a service about my mental health, their main advice has always been: “If you are distressed or feel unsafe, contact someone, contact friends, contact family… Just contact someone”. But what if they are not willing to listen?.. Then what can I do? If so, what can any of us do?

Please.., know that I am very thankful for the work that services like Nightline provide for people and if you ever need someone to listen please do not hesitate to contact someone.

Just remember, that if someone ever approaches you in need of support, PLEASE LISTEN! Even if it is just for a moment, the fact that you are there and that you are willing to listen can change everything. Take care of yourself and take care of each other.

Stay safe everyone!

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