Mental Health: How to make it a part of normal conversation
How to make Mental Health a part of normal conversation
Talking Matters when it comes to Mental Health
Talking is the first step in recovering from mental health issues such as stress, depression and anxiety. It is also important an important component of good mental wellbeing.
But why is talking – something that we generally start by the time we are 18 months old – so difficult to do when it comes to mental health?
There are two main parts to this problem. First, we need to ensure we nurture a culture that embraces this type of communication without prejudice; and second, we need normalise the conversation, and make it as easy as possible for everyone to speak about their problems.
Why is talking about mental health so important?
A recent study by mind.org.uk that looked at how stress affected employees in the workplace showed the following:
- 21% agreed that they had called in sick due to stress
- 14% had resigned a position
- 42% had considered resigning
- 30% said they wouldn’t feel able to talk openly with senior staff if they felt stressed
Mental health can have a huge impact on employees, and how they think and feel at work. It is important that businesses explore ways they help all employees talk about any worries and concerns they have, no matter how big or small.
The Work Culture
Regardless of whether you are a CEO running a business, a Headteacher at a school or a parent in a family home, instilling a culture that promotes and supports an environment in which it is easy to talk openly is a valuable step. It helps remove the barriers that prevent individuals from talking about their problems and concerns.
With particular regard to the workplace, employees often go through an application process which can include references, practical assessments and interviews. In short, they sell themselves to their potential employer by promoting their strengths and advantages. If mental health issues are perceived by the individual to be an indication of weakness – either to themselves or to their employer – this would create a barrier to talking.
Changing a company culture to one that welcomes conversation around mental health needs to begin with your leadership. Simple changes can often be the most effective. Below are a few things you can try:
- Making it clear on external communications for potential applicants
- Conducting regular pulse checks on staff emotional wellbeing
- Incorporating non-work related conversation into individual 1-to-1s
- Leading by example and talking about stresses, hardships and issues with colleagues
- Ensuring that internal and/or external help and resources are available for staff
- Having a system in place for staff to reach out, if they are for whatever reason, uncomfortable talking to someone in person
Normalise the Conversation
If you’re not used to it, making yourself open and available for new and potentially difficult conversations around mental health can be unsettling. ‘What if I don’t know how to help them?’; ‘Could I make things worse?’: ‘What do I say?’.
Remember, you don’t need to have a solution. The important thing is that they feel able to talk. And that becomes much easier if the conversation can be normalised. If you have a concern about someone and you set a meeting with them to discuss what’s on their mind, they may feel put on the spot and won’t be willing to talk. By normalising the conversation, you can make it easier for people to disclose their worries or concerns as it will feel less formal. Here are some things you can do to normalise the conversation:
- If there is a hierarchy, remove it. Discussions around mental health should be considered non-work related and as such any business titles should be disregarded. This is one human being talking to another.
- Take the conversation out of the office. Face to face discussions over a desk can be intimidating. However, in the kitchen during a coffee break or in the car while driving to work or to a meeting can take the formality out of it and allow for a more open and honest discussion.
- Ask open questions that invite them to talk a lot about how they feel. This gives them time to say more before asking another question. Avoid any language that may convey judgement or a lack of understanding or compassion.
- Don’t push for a quick fix. Just like a broken leg, mental health issues will not be mended overnight. It takes time to heal. Be patient, empathetic and most importantly, LISTEN.
- Prove you are listening and want to help. Be understanding and offer help and advice where appropriate. Don’t feel you need to do this straight away. You may need some time to find the resources and help required.
Make Talking About Mental Health Easy
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