1. StartTotalk was founded by two counsellors. We provide counselling and
support services via face-to-face, email, chat, telephone, skype and the
internet. We have chosen these different platforms to remove the barriers
associated with reaching a counsellor or therapist. We realised that clients often
struggle to access emotional support and counselling because of the barriers
(such as distance, waiting lists etc) and commitments required by the industry
(For example: It is therapeutically helpful to see a therapist at the same time
every week, but this doesn’t always fit with peoples’ lives). Our aim is to
revolutionise how clients access counselling and emotional support through an
innovative way of working using the help of modern technology. This approach
enables us to operate at a lower cost and gives clients the flexibility they need
to benefit from therapy. The booking facility on our website enables and
empowers prospective clients to access our service at a time and place that
suits them based on the availability we have.
We also provide self-help blogs on our website to help mental health sufferers
who might not be ready for therapy or who are too embarrassed to speak to a
2. Have you taken antidepressants? If so what affect did they have on you? What advice would you give to someone starting a course of antidepressants?
As an organisation, we believe that antidepressants can be really helpful when
a person is feeling very vulnerable and needs some help to get through the
days. We also understand that some people are prescribed antidepressants to
help them cope with their mental health problems whilst they are waiting for
talking therapy. However, we don’t feel that antidepressants are a long term
solution to mental health problems. Although, we do recognise that for some
the only way to get through life is with the help of antidepressants. Our advice
to someone who is starting a course of antidepressants will be to look out for
the side effects of the tablets and to speak to their GP if they experience any of
the side effects listed on the packet. We would also advise them to try and
access therapy as quickly as is possible to help them work on the issues that
led to them experiencing mental health problems.
3. What coping strategies do you use on a bad day?
When people suffer mental health problems it can be difficult for them to find
coping strategies due to the complex nature of everyone’s mental health.
However there are some strategies we can suggest as an organisation, here
are some below:
• If you are having a stressful day or are feeling anxious, the first thing we
would suggest is to reach out and ring a helpline to talk about your
worries. This strategy of talking to a professional counsellor or someone
who is trained to listen to how you are can really help to ease the stress,
panic or any other feelings and worries you may be having. It can be
really hard to manage mental health problems on your own.
• Exercise is another good coping strategy. When we exercise our brains
release the hormone dopamine which is a feel-good hormone that
makes us happy. However, we would suggest that people are careful not
to over exercise or over use exercise as a coping mechanism. Physical
exercise can sometimes become an addiction to avoid feeling the more
painful aspects of our lives.
• Watching your favourite movie or finding TV programmes that make you
laugh. Laughter can give us a break from the stresses and anxieties
we’re facing. When we laugh our brains release the happy hormones
which are very good for us.
• Listening to music is another coping strategy that works for a lot of
people. Music connects with our feelings and can also act as a soother
and a way to calm our minds and bodies down. Music can also lift our
spirits and remind us of good times.
• Attending a support group or joining an online forum is a good coping
strategy. There are lots to choose from.
• If you self-harm to cope we have tips on our website about how to look
after yourself and what to do.
• If you suffer from panic attacks or flashbacks, we also have tips on our
website to help you survive panic attacks and flashbacks.
4. What effect do you think social media has had on your mental health? What affect do you think it has on other people’s mental health?
We believe that social media impacts peoples’ mental health both positively
and negatively. Social media has created a lot of opportunities for people to find
information about mental health anonymously and also to join supportive
groups. This is a really good thing. We do however also believe that social
media can adversely affect people’s mental health. Many people have become
addicted to social media and it has affected their confidence and self-esteem.
The hours people spend on social media has also affected sleep patterns and
behaviour. Sleep deprivation through being addicted to social media can cause
exhaustion in both adults and children. This then leads to poor concentration,
an inability to make decisions and anxiety throughout the day. Social media can
sometimes influence people to aspire to be something which is not real. When
a person can’t achieve this aspiration, they can then feel worthless, a failure,
helpless and confused about who they are and what they can be in life.
5. What changes would you like to see in raising awareness for mental health going forward? What would you do? How do you think we can reduce the stigma surrounding it?
As a private organisation we would like to see a mental health system that
allows GPs to refer clients to organisations like ours instead of increasing the
number of people on the waiting list by using the same failed system. Leaving
people on the waiting list for a long time makes their mental health problems
worse. We think having a voucher system that GPs can give to their patients to
take to a private counsellor who can then redeem it through a purchasing
process will cut out all the bureaucratic obstacles that people face when trying
to access help. The GPs could also make a referral to the therapist and the
therapist could then invoice the practice after a set amount of sessions. We
need innovative ways of paying for services that will benefit the service users.
We believe that to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health problems, we
need to encourage people to talk more, run mental health awareness courses
in schools, universities and work places. We need to make people aware that
there is the option of anonymity when they access help. We need to let people
know that it’s okay to not feel okay and that there are therapy services which
will work alongside you, not judge you or tell you what to do. We’ve noticed that
when people are able to receive help anonymously for their mental health
problem, they have been able to talk more freely about how they’re feeling and
feel safe that no one knows who they are. When a person talks to an
organisation anonymously, they often build up trust with the organisation and
eventually feel more comfortable revealing their real name to the organisation.
6. Have you ever experienced stigma yourself? How did you deal with this?
As an organisation we have come across people who have stopped engaging
with us when they realised that we are therapists. This is a very common
reaction because many people are afraid and feel a sense of shame about
mental health problems. They feel that we will judge them, make assumptions
about them and tell them to change. This fear is particularly prominent within
the BAME community and within the male population. As therapists we are not
here to judge, make assumptions or tell anyone what to do. We are a service
which empowers people through hearing their experiences, believing what has
happened and sitting alongside people to help them work through their
difficulties. To reduce this fear of our profession we have used every day
language to explain what our work is about for example: Instead of using the
words ‘therapy’ or ‘counsellor’ we have explained that we are here to listen, to
understand the problems people are facing and to help them decide what they
would like to do. These words normalise the work we do and it doesn’t sound
as scary as the words ‘therapy’ and ‘counselling’.
7. Finally, yay! I hear you say.
What advice would you give to someone who is struggling in silence with their mental health?
We would advise someone who is struggling to take the tiny step of making
contact with organisations like ours for an informal chat with no commitment.
This can be done by DM on twitter, facebook or email. We are also happy to
chat with you about any worries you might have about asking for help and will
explain to you how we work. The first contact with us is always free. No one
should have to suffer with how they’re feeling alone and there are people like
us who will care and support even when it feels like there is nothing but
darkness in front of you.
Thank you for taking part, you can find Start To Talks social media sites here: