How to approach a conversation with someone about their mental health

Do you know somebody who is suffering in silence?

When it comes to Mental Health at work (and at home for that matter) we can all too often brush things under the carpet in the name of ‘putting on a brave face’ or ‘pulling our socks up’.

The fear of what others might think or how being ‘found out’ might negatively affect our career are very real for people. So we often keep quiet, find other far less healthy ways to cope and by doing so risk spiraling downwards into a much more severe Mental Health problem.

It doesn’t have to be like this!

The latest stats show that 1 in 6 workers are suffering with a mental health problem such as anxiety, depression or stress.

You could be on a building site or in a board room and chances are you are already in contact with a colleague who is struggling.

Or maybe it’s you?

If it is you then my advice right away is to make an appointment with your GP and find someone to talk to whom you feel comfortable with. Talking about your Mental Health with someone you trust is the first step to getting the help and support you need.

You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by being open and asking for support.

But what if you have seen changes in one of your colleagues? And you suspect that they are going through a tough time?

It can be difficult to know what to say or how to approach a conversation with someone about their mental health. So if you are a business leader, line manager or an employee of an organisation and you want to know how to approach a conversation with someone at work who you are concerned about then here are a few tips.

  1. Choose a quiet place – somewhere where the person you are talking to feels safe. It might be that the best place is outside of the workplace to keep things private and away from anybody else at work.
  2. Listen non-judgmentally – It may be that you have noticed that your colleague has been showing up differently at work, their appearance may be different or their normal work output has decreased. You may want to mention these things to start off the conversation but care must be taken in the way you say these things. Be understanding, show empathy and share times when you have felt particularly stressed or anxious at work. All of this can help normalise the situation and reassure your colleague that you can be trusted.
  3. Encourage them to Seek Advice – It’s really important that you encourage your colleague to seek advice and support. They must speak to their GP asap to ask about NHS support in the form of talking therapy.
  4. Let them know You Care – By simply telling your colleague that you care and that your door is open any time for them to talk to you can really help someone feel more connected and like they aren’t alone in the world.
  5. Develop an action plan – If you are a leader or line manager in your organisation consider setting up an individual action plan for your colleague (if your organisation has a HR function then you could work alongside them) to clearly define triggers for stress, the possible impact on their work, who to contact in a crisis and what support is needed. You could also implement a review process to see if ongoing support is working.

These are just some points to consider when approaching a conversation with someone about their mental health.

I hope they go some way to help!

Love Claire

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