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How to Talk About Mental Health at Work

07 February 2019
Besma Whayeb
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Today is #TimeToTalkDay, a day created by Time to Change to promote the discussion of mental health in the workplace. While it may still feel like a taboo subject, poor mental health is one of the top reasons why employees call in sick to work – and worse, quit their jobs.

It’s important that the subject of mental health is recognised as equally important as physical health, especially in our careers. Here’s how you can best talk about it with your colleagues, teammates, and boss.

1. Take it seriously

When you begin discussing mental health – whether it’s over a cup of tea, or with your manager in a private room – you should take it seriously. Both parties have a right to trust each other, and provide a listening ear. However strange a situation may seem to you, it’s real to them.

2. Listen and reflect

Listening is one of the best skills to have in the workplace. When it comes to talking about mental health, listening is crucial. Show that you are actively listening to whomever you are talking to through non-verbal signals, such as nodding, and you will find they will open up and trust you.

3. Ask simple questions

The aim of asking simple questions is to keep the conversation going. Your role is to lend an ear, so show that you are engaged with what is being said and want to know more through questions such as:

  • How did that feel?
  • What did you do next?
  • What did you think of that?

4. Don’t try to fix it

It is more helpful to the other person (or people) if you just listen, rather than try to find answers to their problems. Talking openly about mental health is an exercise that boosts trust, and a sense of security – it’s not a question and answer session.

5. Build your knowledge

If mental health is a topic that is new to you, you may want to read up on topics that are covered when you talk with others. Try visiting the Time for Change website for general information, or Calmer, a UK organisation supporting the mental health of entrepreneurs and freelancers.