Time to Talk Day: addressing the stigma around dysphagia

Time to Talk Day: addressing the stigma around dysphagia

Living with any form of disability or health issue can have impacts on mental health as well as your physical wellbeing. 

Time to Talk Day is the perfect time to discuss our challenges and barriers, no matter what walk of life we’re from or following. 

What is Time to Talk Day? 

Time to Talk Day is an annual awareness event designed to help end the stigma of mental health. It’s organised by the social movement Time to Change, and the 2021 theme is “the power of small”, which aims to highlight the big impact that even a small conversation can have on mental health. 

The overall idea is to get people talking about their mental health in order to dispel myths and break down barriers. 

How might dysphagia affect mental health? 

For the dysphagia community, having difficulty with swallowing can have knock-on effects on mental health. Discomfort at mealtimes can have the following impacts: 

  • Anxiety – if you have difficulty in swallowing or chewing, you may find that you become anxious around mealtimes. You may also feel an increase in anxiety when eating with others or (when circumstances allow) eating out and socialising when you have dysphagia 
  • Stress – similarly, you may find that the process of eating or preparing food leads to stress, given that you may have difficulty or discomfort in swallowing 
  • Loneliness – feelings of anxiety and stress around eating may mean you don’t feel comfortable eating with others, which in turn may lead to feelings of loneliness 
  • Depression – all of these mental health responses can lead to a low mood, which can in turn develop into bouts of depression if left to fester 

The difficulty with dysphagia is that the link with mental wellbeing runs both ways; not only can swallowing difficulties trigger mental ill-health, but psychological conditions such as stress and anxiety can also contribute to the development or worsening of dysphagia.  

What to do if dysphagia is affecting your mental health 

If you haven’t already, then now is the perfect Time to Talk. Just a small conversation about your feelings can help to get things off your chest and allow others to be there for you. Try to talk to someone close to you, who’ll be able to listen and support you with no judgement. Reach out to close family members or friends and try to open up about how you feel. 

If you’re feeling lonely, support is available – there are helplines and resources out there to help ease and comfort those who suffer from loneliness. 

Other useful resources for those living with dysphagia and/or mental health issues 

If you’re living with dysphagia and you’re experiencing the ill effects on your mental wellbeing, please know that you’re not alone. There is support and advice available: 

  • Alimento Knowledge Hub – we’re keen to help and support you by providing tips, information, advice and guidance on a range of topics and issues relating to dysphagia and swallowing difficulties 
  • Alimento forum – connect with likeminded people and Alimento customers on our forum – we’d love to see you there!
  • Mind – the mental health charity’s website contains helpful guides, and they also have a helpline on 0300 123 3393 
  • Samaritans – an organisation providing confidential support to those in distress or despair – their free phoneline is open 24 hours a day on 116 123  

At Alimento, we’re passionate about helping those with dysphagia and swallowing difficulties to enjoy mealtimes that little bit better, but we’re also passionate about being there for our customers and the community at times of difficulty and need. 

Today, and any other day, if you need to talk, we’re here for you.