For many people, talking about their mental health is much easier said than done, despite research showing that simply opening up to others can be hugely beneficial to our wellbeing.
So today, for Time to Talk Day, we’ve teamed up with our Official Health and Wellbeing Partner, Paycare, to understand how we can be both better at speaking up, and better at listening.
“There are many reasons why people don’t speak about their mental health,” Kerry Mitchell, Wellbeing Manager at Paycare and an experienced Mental Health Trainer, explains. “Although the stigma is continuing to be pushed out of society, it still very much lingers.
“The fear of the response, the pressure of burdening others, the feeling of shame or embarrassment, or it simply not being the ‘right’ time to talk can all contribute to withholding feelings and emotions.
“And while they may seem like valid reasons to someone suffering from a mental health issue, the likelihood is that those around you — whether it be friends, family, colleagues, or a third party — don’t care one bit about any of those and would much rather that person feels comfortable enough to open up in times of difficulty.
“As an experienced mental health first aid trainer for both adults and children, and having my own personal experiences with mental health, I know first-hand how simply talking can be so effective for all involved.”
So, on this Time to Talk day, here are five tips to becoming more comfortable at approaching mental health.
Be warm yet direct
Simply checking in with someone to see how they’re feeling can go a long way. Set some time aside, go somewhere a little more private, and encourage them to open up about how they’re feeling,
If they’re not comfortable talking with you though, ask if they’ve got a close friend they can talk to, suggest visiting the doctor, or if the problem is quite serious, pass on the number of the Samaritans. You could also ask the person if it’ll be okay for you to check in again in a few days’ time to see how they’re getting on.
If a friend or someone you know is quieter than normal, or not behaving as you’ve come to expect, stop and take just five minutes to see if they’re okay. Some people will pretend to be okay but really are crumbling inside.
A common response is ‘I’m fine’, but research suggests that over three quarters of us would tell friends, family and work colleagues that they are fine when they’re not. Time to Change are asking everyone to ask twice if they think someone may be experiencing a mental health problem.
Direct to other support
Signposting to other services both in and out of the workplace can promote better mental health. Some people might want to access support privately with a confidential third party, such as an Employee Wellbeing Service, which according to Anum (2018) supported almost 75% of employees with mental health problems.
Having reminders about available signposting services are vital too and a first line of defence for supporting staff when they need it. This can include anything from posters, leaflets, handouts and numbers on company intranets, break-out rooms and the canteen.
Make some time for a podcast
The podcast ‘Men and Mental Health’ by the Mental Health Foundation is a series hosted by four men who talk openly about mental health. It’s suitable for any gender and offers some brilliant advice specifically about normalising mental health discussions for men.
Three in four suicides are male and 1 in 4 men suffer from stress, so it’s key that we all look out for the men in our lives.
Emotional wellbeing is key for young people to learn and thrive, with research suggesting that one in 10 children and young people have a mental health condition. Being creative together can encourage children and young people to start talking about what’s going on in their everyday lives, especially when they are feeling a bit blue.
Using creativity, even if it’s sitting with a colouring book, can help to create an environment which encourages people to be open, be themselves, be at ease sharing how they’re feeling, and talk if something is troubling them. Feeling connected can create safety, and we all have the innate need to feel safe.
If you are personally experiencing any issues, or you suspect someone you know is struggling, please choose someone you trust to confide in.
No one will judge you or think differently about you, and your chosen individual or organisation will have the time to listen and help.
If you don’t feel comfortable talking to someone you know, please use one of the helplines and talk to someone confidentially:
Confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair.
Phone: 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline)
CALM is the Campaign Against Living Miserably, for men aged 15 to 35.
Phone: 0800 58 58 58 (daily, 5pm to midnight)
Men’s Health Forum
24/7 stress support for men by text, chat and email.
Mental Health Foundation
Provides information and support for anyone with mental health problems or learning disabilities.
Promotes the views and needs of people with mental health problems.
Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm)
Emotional support, information and guidance for people affected by mental illness, their families and carers.
SANEline: 0300 304 7000 (daily, 4.30pm to 10.30pm)
Textcare: comfort and care via text message, sent when the person needs it most: www.sane.org.uk/textcare