Did you know that mental health problems affect one in four of us at some point in our lives?

But, while many of us would talk about a physical illness openly and without hesitation, we’re not so keen to discuss our mental health and wellbeing.

Today is national Time to Talk Day, which aims to encourage everyone to be more open about mental health – to talk and to listen.

Historically, mental health has been stigmatised and, while much has been done to combat this stigma, it still exists, with those who suffer from mental health conditions often believing that others don’t understand how they feel.

Talking about our mental health can increase understanding as well as combat stigma and help normalise these issues.

Here in County Durham we have our own Time to Change hub which works with people across the area to change the way we think and act about mental health, with the ultimate goal of ending mental health stigma and discrimination in our communities.

The workplace can often be the environment in which we feel least comfortable talking about mental health and, for that reason, staff at the Time to Change hub are making a particular effort to work with a wide range of employers across the area.

As a council we’re signed up to the Better Health at Work Award, which aims to support employees with all aspects of health and wellbeing, including mental health. We’re hoping that we can lead by example and that other organisations will sign up too. The Time to Change hub team is actively working to encourage employers to pledge their support to ending mental health stigma in the workplace.

On a personal level, we can all do our bit by sparing a moment either to listen to others or to talk about our own experiences.

No-one should feel afraid to discuss their mental health – if you are experiencing difficulties, think about who you feel comfortable talking to and consider what you would like to share with them.

Equally, could your personal experience help others in a similar situation? And if someone has chosen to share their thoughts or feelings with you, listening to and believing them are the first – simple and easy – steps towards helping them.

If you would like more information about mental health, visit www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mindmatters or time-to-change.org.uk

You can also share your thoughts on mental health by taking part in a survey aimed at people who live and work in the county.

You can do this by visiting investinginchildren.net/news1/.

Simon Hening is leader of Durham County Council