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We Need To Talk

The workplace is an especially difficult place to talk about mental health. In fact, only 16% of employees feel able to disclose a mental health issue at work, with 68% of managers saying there are barriers to supporting mental health in the workplace.*

Time to Talk Day encourages us all to start a conversation about mental health. Pretty easy right?…Well, not for a lot of us.

feel able to disclose a mental health issue at work

say there are barriers to supporting mental health in the workplace

You know you should probably say something but you have no idea how to bring it up or what to say. What if you make it worse or they put in a grievance?

This uncertainty and nervousness is perfectly natural, but can cause managers to wait for an employee’s six-month review to bring up any notion of mental health. Even then, it can be easily brushed off with a very vague, “so, everything alright?” type of question.

But trust me, you don’t have to be an expert to talk about mental health, and there really isn’t a script.

With one in four people in the UK suffering from a mental illness each year**, it’s more important than ever that we look beyond the box-ticking and blanket-compliance approach, and reach out to our employees and workmates. If you were concerned for a friend or family member would you wait until you’d been on a course or got a certificate? Of course you wouldn’t. Why should it be any different at work? 

So, how do you even begin to start up a conversation about mental health? It’s not that complicated really. We can all do our bit, one conversation at a time. A brew and a packet of hobnobs is a great start but let’s give it a little more thought.

Here’s our top tips

  • Have a plan: Make sure you’re prepared for the conversation. Perhaps some examples of any signs you’ve noticed could be a starter.
  • Location, location, location: Try to meet in a less formal place, like a coffee shop or outside – somewhere where the person will feel more comfortable and relaxed.
  • Make sure you have time: Asking someone if they’re OK just before you nip into a meeting will do nothing for building trust. Make sure you both have plenty of time to talk.
  • Make sure it’s private: This is going to be a very personal, possibly uncomfortable or even embarrassing conversation. Keep away from prying eyes…
  • Turn off your phone: Switch your phone off to give them your full and undivided attention. That Facebook notification can wait!
  • Ask open questions: “Are you OK?” is a good start, but an open invitation like “tell me how you’re doing” will get a more honest answer.
  • Be prepared for their response: Don’t think the conversation is over if they say “I’m fine”. You may need to build trust before they open up. Maybe a colleague closer to them could help.
  • Listen and be patient: Most people are worried that they’ll say the wrong thing, or make the situation worse. Often, the very best thing to do is just listen and don’t judge.Element

Feel ready to start that conversation? I know it’s never going to be the easiest thing in the world, but ignoring the issue is not an option. These conversations could even save a life.

If you’d like to know more about Time for Change’s Time to Talk campaign, you can find lots of useful info, advice and downloadable guides on their website right here:

How about this for a radical idea…let’s make everyday time to talk day.

Business in the Community ‘BITC’ National Employee Mental Wellbeing Survey Findings 2017

** McManus, S., Meltzer, H., Brugha, T. S., Bebbington, P. E., & Jenkins, R. (2009). Adult psychiatric morbidity in England, 2007: results of a household survey. The NHS Information Centre for health and social care.