Each year, one in four people will suffer from a mental health condition but for many, the associated feelings of shame or isolation can be worse than the condition itself. Time to Change is a campaign to change the way we think about mental health issues, and key to this is talking openly about mental health to help remove the stigma. As today has been designated Time to Talk Day, here are some tips on how to tackle the subject in the workplace:
Start a conversation
As it’s such a taboo topic, simply getting the dialogue going will prompt people to reconsider how they think and act when it comes to mental health issues, and what they could do better. Visit the Time to Change website for informative posters you can display in the office and for other ideas on how you can explore the issues at work.
We might think we understand what conditions such as anxiety or depression entail, but people can react very differently. If a colleague experiences a mental health condition or returns after time off to deal with these issues, try to truly listen to their needs and not to second guess what will help them.
Don’t force people to talk
The freedom to talk openly about mental health issues entails the freedom not to talk about your problems if you don’t want to. Try not to force people to open up or discuss their personal lives if they don’t feel comfortable doing so.
Watch your language
Office banter is great for a bit of light relief but be aware of how ill-worded jokes can affect others around you. Stereotypical representations of people suffering with mental health problems perpetuate the stigma, meaning people are less willing to seek help when they need it. And remember – many people are good at masking their feelings, so may not ‘appear’ to be going through difficulties, but may take your words more seriously than you intend.
Show an interest in others
We all have off days, but if you notice major changes in a colleague’s behaviour then this could be a sign of deeper problems. Changes in personality, productivity, attendance, or the way they relate to others in person or via email and social media can all suggest underlying difficulties. Of course, stress can affect anybody – but it might be worth checking in with a colleague if you notice long-term changes in behaviour.
Highlight what help is out there
Many people are unaware of what help is available to them, either via their line managers or through HR, and don’t take advantage of the opportunities when they need them. Make it clear what colleagues can do if they need help. Not only does it mean they will be more likely to explore these avenues when they go through difficulties, it’s also a good way to talk about the issues and show that your business takes staff welfare seriously.
Visit Time to Change for more information on the campaign to change the way we talk and act about mental health.
Mental Health First Aiders
At EqualEngineers we believe that mental health should be treated with the same importance as physical safety and well-being. We want to see an industry where an equal number of people are trained in mental health first aid as are trained in physical first aid. To be effective, this must be visible through lanyards, messaging around offices and on site, and through posters making clear who the local mental health first aiders are.
EqualEngineers is offering Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training sessions to help achieve this. Check out our MHFA England Adult Half-Day training course in London, 9am to 12pm on Monday 5 March 2018. We can also deliver these courses in-house; please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.