The origin of the name Dare to Talk is literally a matter of life and death. About a decade ago I was eighteen years old and looking forward to starting an Ecology degree at Reading Uni. I had a good circle of friends and leaving this position of comfort was daunting to say the least. I’d had my struggles as a teenager, as I think everyone had. I’d suffered from mental health problems of my own but I’ll talk about that in another post.
This story centres around a close friend of mine, someone I met when I was 11 on the way to my first day of secondary school. I vividly remember how hilarious he found my pronunciation of the word train, or twain as I called it then, shout out Jonothan Woss. Fast forward 6 years and it became clear that whilst I had my demons, his were bigger and more dangerous and I soon became chair of his self-titled support network. His problems ran deep and were largely hereditary, suffering from depression in a similar way to his Mum. You wouldn’t know it from the outside though, as a jovial personality hid a troubled mind. I must be honest, at the time not even I knew just how serious his condition was, something that almost proved fatal.
It was a weeknight, nothing out of the ordinary and he’d seemed perfectly fine last time I’d spoken to him but this was to be a big night in both our lives. Asleep in my bed, I had no idea that he’d fled home and had the local police looking for him. They searched and searched as he made his way to Richmond bridge with one thing in his mind, to escape the pain he felt and end his life. Standing on that bridge he knew he needed help, he knew he needed support, so who did he call? The chair of his support network of course. And this is where my single biggest regret comes into sharp focus, I’d put my phone on silent. I had no experience of dealing with someone with depression, at least not like this and I honestly thought he was fine. I was wrong. The next day I woke up to a tonne of missed calls, Facebook messages and texts and the realisation hit me. What have I done? I desperately scrambled to call him and initially got no answer. At this point I had no idea whether one of my closest friends was alive or dead.
Mercifully, he called back. I had never felt relief like it and I haven’t since. He told me that whilst he was standing on that bridge desperately trying to phone me, he had music playing on his iPod. The song playing was by a Christian Rock band called Switchfoot and had the title ‘I dare you to move’. The lyrics of this song encourage the listener to ‘move like today never happened’, in essence to move through the bad times and look to a brighter future. In that moment, he chose to follow the advice of that song and not the inner workings of his depressed mind. That song saved my friend, and in doing so saved me a life time of guilt.
So that explains the first half of our title, but why not just call ourselves ‘Dare to move’? Where does the word talk come in? This is an all round simpler thing to explain. When I was at university I became aware of a new movement called ‘Time to talk’ in which people were encouraged to talk about their mental health problems. It sought to end the negative stigma around mental illness. It encouraged me to speak more freely about my own issues and it also started a burning desire to do whatever I can to help reduce the stigma myself.
Fast forward to today and I’ve created this website to try and do exactly that. I want people to be brave, to Dare to Talk about their issues. I am a firm believer that communication and support are crucial when dealing with mental health problems and this is so much harder if people feel unable to open up. I want to tell whoever reads this post, even if it’s just one person, that there is nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to mental health. You would treat a headache without questioning it and I believe mental illness needs to be viewed in a similar way. However, much like a headache, mental illness isn’t visible, so tell someone, talk to friends and family and get the help that you deserve.