We need to talk more about Mental Health.
Mental health issues aren’t rare. In fact, 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience mental health ill health each year. So why aren’t we talking about it more? As part of the #timetochange pledge, my office is actively working to change how we think, talk and act about mental health. While this is something we are doing every day of the year, I thought it only appropriate to use my blog this World Mental Health Day to tell you more about it.
There is still a stigma attached to mental health. People are uncomfortable talking about it, are often misinformed about what it means, or use outdated, inappropriate and offensive language to describe it. But with 1 in 4 people in the UK experiencing mental health problems each year, this needs to change. Mental ill health is not something that happens to “other people”. 1 in 4 means that it is happening to us, our family, friends and colleagues. It is not something to be hidden away, but something to be discussed openly – because the more we talk about it, the more we understand it and the more we break down the stigma that surrounds it.
In May, I signed the Time to Change pledge as a demonstration of the commitment my senior management team and I have toward changing the way mental health is viewed and talked about. As part of this work, we have 3 Mental Health First Aiders offering initial support to staff experiencing a mental health issue or emotional distress through non-judgemental listening and signposting to appropriate services. We have information freely available on mental health issues and relevant support services and we actively discuss these issues as a team and as part of our ongoing learning and development.
This World Mental Health day we are supporting and implementing #AskTwice – a campaign to encourage people to understand that sometimes we say we’re fine when we’re not and the importance of asking people again in order to give them an opportunity to open up.
This concept is a great place to start talking about mental health and you don’t need to be a mental health professional to do it. In fact, time to change even provides the following guide to asking twice:
|1. Take it seriously|
|It can feel embarrassing and exposing to talk about your thoughts and feelings, especially if they’re disturbing. Don’t laugh or treat it like a joke. However strange it might seem to you, remember it’s real to them.|
|2. Listen and reflect|
|You don’t have to have all the answers – just listening can make a big difference. Try and show that you’re taking on board what they’re saying. You can do this by reflecting – that is, saying something simple like “that sounds really difficult”. You could also say something like “thanks for telling me”, to show that you appreciate having the conversation.|
|3. Ask questions|
|We worry about prying when it comes to others’ mental health, but it’s better to ask questions. It can help them to get things off their chest, and by keeping the conversation going it shows that you care.
Some of the questions you might ask:
“What does it feel like?”
|4. Don’t try and fix it|
|It’s human nature to want to fix things, but expecting things to change right away isn’t helpful. It’s not your job to make their mental health problem go away – it’s often more helpful just to listen, ask open questions and do things you’d normally do together.|
|5. Build your knowledge|
|You might find it helpful to learn a bit more about what they’re going through. If they mention a specific diagnosis, you could learn more about it and read personal stories by people who have experienced similar things.
You might want to learn about the professional help that’s available to them and suggest that they explore those options. Our friends at Mind have a handy guide on seeking help for a mental health problem, and our friends at Rethink Mental Illness have advice on what to do in a crisis.
What seems like such a small thing, asking how someone is and then asking again, can have an enormous positive impact on people’s lives and on the way we approach mental health.
So on this World Mental Health Day, let’s start talking more about mental health and breaking down the stigma that surrounds it.
If you are experiencing mental health problems or need support, there are places you can go for help including: