Health & wellbeing

Time to talk – with The Joy Club

06 Mar 2023 | Written by Jennifer Cromar

In February, The Joy Club held its first “Time to Talk” session. This blog explains where the idea came from, what ‘time to talk’ is and what the sessions are like. You can book onto the next Time to talk session with Jen, which will take place on Friday 10th March…


Talking about mental health can be a challenge. “Time To Talk” is a mental health campaign aimed at helping us have these conversations. It was started by “Time to Change”, which wanted to help end mental health stigma and discrimination. Time to Change was run by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness. It was funded by Comic Relief, The Department of Health and Social Care and the National Lottery Fund. From Time to Change came Time to Talk. Co-Op sponsor the campaign (they are not involved in the writing of this blog!).

What is it?

This year, Time to Talk day was on Thursday 2nd February. Every single year one in four of us will experience a mental health issue. Time to Talk wants to create supportive communities which can help give us the confidence we need to speak up, to listen and find help if we want it. By opening up, we can help others to speak too, then look at ways to support ourselves. By listening, we can help others find their solutions.

Time to Talk day suggests how you can get involved: you could have a coffee morning in your local community centre, or take “time to talk” at work over lunch, make a post about mental health on social media, message a friend asking how they are, meet someone for a cup of tea. You can print an official poster. All they ask is that you use the hashtag “#timetotalk”.

The aim is to get good mental health conversations going, so we decided to keep these going at The Joy Club.

How on earth do you actually do this talking thing? Many of us were brought up in a world where you do not talk about how you are; you simply say “I’m fine”. I know someone who has had a friend for over forty years and, in all that time, they have never talked about how they truly are, never talking about feelings, like it is some sort of taboo, or rather some sort of weakness.

Times are changing… in fact, they have changed.

If you have been to any of my sessions with The Joy Club, you may have heard me say what “fine” stands for:

F = Fed up
I = Insecure
N = Neurotic
E = Emotional

I learnt this whilst teaching Life Skills working in a male prison twenty years ago, somewhere I most definitely was wearing a “fine” mask (note: the inmate told me a different “F” word…). When this person saw straight through my mask I wanted the ground to swallow me up. I needed to have bravado (the need to appear brave) in that job, at that stage in my life anyway.

Sometimes it is important to wear this mask and keep yourself safe if you feel too exposed when you open up. We need to choose who is safe to open up with.

In our session…

It is the intention of The Joy Club to create this safe space in our Time To Talk sessions. I am a trained psychotherapist/counsellor, taught to be able to “hold space”. Time to Talk sessions are not the same as actual therapy, which is a formal contract of work between you and a therapist, but they can be therapeutic, meaning that they could help some healing take place. And they can empower you, help you to have deeper conversations in your life, seeing beyond masks but also respecting it if people do not want to remove them. To ask “how are you?” with a different tone than the usual politeness we use, emphasis on the “are”, prepared to listen well. You can learn this in the sessions, learn how to hold a little space for someone else, without feeling the need to rush in and fix them. It can be enough to let someone know they are not alone.

Typically, in a session, I will ask good questions, focussed on mental wellness – not too challenging. People come along to share issues that they are having with life, or in supporting others, perhaps ask for advice (it is good practice these days to check if someone wants advice or if they just want to be heard).

You can come along just to feel like you can take off that mask for a little while, sigh, take a deep breath before you may have to go put the mask back on.

If this blog speaks to you please join us in this week’s session.


Do you have any expertise you’d like to share with The Joy Club community? Get in touch via submissions@thejoyclub.com to share your wisdom!

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