Mental health is the buzzword on everyone’s lips. We’re told “mental health is as important as physical health,” and “we should be open about this.” But while it’s one thing to say so, it’s a whole other thing to actually do it. Talking about mental health can be really hard – let alone talking about it at work.
But it is important that we talk about it. Whether you’re asking your boss for time off for therapy, worrying about a colleague, or just trying to create more awareness, it’s never been so important that we open up the conversation at work.
With a quarter of us experiencing some kind of mental health problem in our lives, it’s about time we took a well-aimed smash at the stigma and kicked off the conversation. Here are some of our best tips on how to get started…
Remember that everyone goes through it
Whether it’s yourself, a friend, or a family member, we will all be affected by mental health at some point in their lives. Triggers such as break ups, bereavements, and financial worries can add stress to our lives, and make things harder for us at work. An important part of practising self care is reaching out to others – we can all benefit from openness around mental health.
Be the one to open up first
Perhaps you suspect your colleague is struggling, or you know that your friend in IT is having a tough time. If they’re finding it hard to talk about their feelings, it can help if someone else opens up first. Talking about your own experiences can signal to others that mental health is nothing to be ashamed of.
Suggest mental health first aid training
We’ve all received the annual company-wide email asking who wants to sign up for first aid training. Why don’t you suggest to HR that mental health first aid training is offered as well? On MHFA courses you can learn to be approachable to your colleagues, to facilitate helpful conversations, and to signpost them to further support. You could be the reason someone reaches out and gets the help they need. Not a bad feeling, eh?
You can do big stuff with just a few words. Asking how someone is doing when you know they’re feeling stressed is a great way to show that you care, and casual conversations can really normalise this subject. Just remember to respect privacy – your friend might prefer to talk over a coffee rather than in the bullpen.
Who you tell is up to you
It’s up to you who you discuss your mental health with. Maybe you just tell a work friend you feel close to. Maybe you have a supportive line manager who you think ought to know. Maybe you have to tell your boss so you can get time off for appointments. Whoever you tell, it’s your prerogative, and no-one else’s.
Remember, you can’t control how others react
It’s true that, even today, not everyone gets it. Even the bosses who say they get it may not actually get it. It can be scary to talk to them, but you can’t control how they will react – you can only do right by you. Try chatting to your friends, family, or even a therapist about how best to talk about mental health at work. And if you want more tips, check out this TEDx Talk from Tom Oxley…
Ready to smash the stigma? We’ll see you at the water cooler, armed with the only thing you need – words.
By Jenna Adams