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Leicestershire Doctor Speaks out About Mental Health Ahead of ‘Time to Talk Day’

The global pandemic coupled with a cost-of-living crisis has “significantly increased” the number of people receiving mental health treatment, says a Leicestershire mental health lead ahead of this week’s ‘Time to Talk Day’.

People entering mental health treatment with VitaMinds in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland increased by nearly a third (32 per cent) in a year. Between October and December 2021, 3,602 patients entered treatment with VitaMinds, compared with 4,765 patients during the same period in 2022. 

Dr Omar Kowlessar, clinical psychologist and Vita Health Group NHS regional clinical lead for the Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland IAPT, pointed towards the statistics ahead of ‘Time to Talk Day,’ which takes place on Thursday (February 2).

Leicester Time: Leicestershire Doctor Speaks out About Mental Health Ahead of 'Time to Talk Day'
Dr Omar Kowlessar

“We cannot underestimate the impact of life’s pressures on mental health. A global pandemic coupled with a cost-of-living crisis has triggered an increase in common mental health disorders and those needing professional support,” he said.

Dr Kowlessar also shared important advice on how to approach a conversation about mental health with friends, family and colleagues about mental health ahead of the day, which encourages everyone to be more open about mental health.

“Despite the commonality of mental health, there is still a strong stigma surrounding it. Many people see mental health as a subject that is off-limits and fear being judged if they speak out,” he said. “Consequently, this can prevent people from talking and accessing support.

“We all have mental health and we all need to look after it. It’s important we view our health globally and give our mental health the same priority as our physical health. The more we talk, the more mental health becomes normalised and the easier it becomes for people to reach out for help.”

Advice issued for approaching the subject, includes:

Asking open-ended questions: Avoid closed questions that spark a yes or no response. Instead, opt for open questions, such as “how do you feel about that?”, “how does it affect you?” or “what do you think about..?”.

Being patient and listening: Not everyone will be ready to talk about their feelings and that’s OK. Although you may find it unnatural, allow for silences in the conversation and be patient. Reassure the person there is no judgement and you will be there for them when they are ready to talk. It’s really important not to force someone to talk, this may make them more resistant.

Do not try to fix the problem: Try to resist the temptation to find a solution. The best thing you can do in the moment is be present and actively listen. Your emotional support is what’s important.

Think about the location: It may be easier for someone to talk whilst they’re doing an activity, like walking or puzzling. If the person still feels unable to talk, you could suggest they write their thoughts down on paper for you to read instead.

“In order for people to talk, they first need someone they feel comfortable to open up to,” said Dr Kowlessar.

“It’s quite common for someone to have a big network of family and friends but still feel isolated and reluctant to talk because they fear being judged. Sometimes all someone needs is to feel heard.

“If you (or someone you know) is experiencing excessive worry, low mood, depression or anxiety, or simply needs to talk to someone judgement-free, know that you are not alone. You can turn to the mental health professionals at VitaMinds, safe in the knowledge a trained and experienced therapist is there to listen and support you.”

In partnership with the NHS, Vita Health Group offers free talking therapy and counselling support to adults aged 16 years and over, who live and are registered with a GP in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. 

People in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland can self refer to VitaMinds online and do not need to visit a GP to access the service.

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