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Thursday, January 30, 2020

Making Time to Talk about Mental Health in the Workplace

In recent years, the UK has progressed ahead of many other nations in raising awareness around mental health.

In recent years, the UK has progressed ahead of many other nations in raising awareness around mental health, boosted by public campaigns such as Heads Together and Every Mind Matters, both supported by The Duke and Duchess of Sussex and Cambridge alongside many other famous faces, encouraging the public to address their mental health needs and embrace the support available to them.

However, despite successful mental health initiatives aimed at educating the nation and raising awareness, the British public still struggles to open up and discuss their own mental health and that of others. In addition, some people still believe that mental health is not relevant to them or their loved ones, but the reality is, 1 in 4 of us, regardless of our circumstances, will experience a mental health issue in any given year. 

Time to Change, a growing social movement to end mental health discrimination run by charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, leads an annual Time to Talk Day, which is dedicated to encouraging conversation about mental health with family, friends, colleagues and beyond. 

Too often, mental health problems are treated as a taboo subject – something not to be talked about, especially at work.

Many people prefer not to talk about mental health problems at work due to the perceived stigma around the issue. People may worry that they’ll be excluded, bullied, or judged in the workplace for discussing their mental health challenges, therefore the more conversations we have, the more myths we can bust and barriers we can break down means that we can better provide reassurance and support for those who need it.

Talking about mental health in the workplace can feel awkward, but it doesn’t have to be. We at HappyMaven work with business leaders and their teams to address the stigma around mental health, enabling employees to identify and communicate effectively if they recognise mental health problems in themselves or in someone around them. 

With Time to Talk Day in mind, we’ve selected a few simple methods of opening up conversations about mental health in the workplace:

Do something together

〰️Workplace relationships can often be less intimate than personal ones, so we understand that some people may find asking outright questions uncomfortable. A great way to instigate conversation is to do an activity together. This can be as simple as asking “Do you need a hand with that?” and helping with a task or asking “Do you want to join me?” if you have an errand to run. Making the conversation part of a typical setting will make it feel less unusual and more comfortable. 

〰️Try to ask questions to ensure that the conversation remains open and not leading or judgmental in any way, such as: “how does that affect you” or “what does it feel like?”


Go Digital

〰️If face-to-face isn’t convenient in your workplace or if it isn’t your natural form of communication - take the conversation online. An unexpected email or text to check in on someone can come as a welcome gateway to continue conversations.

〰️Why not reach out to someone at work who you don’t have everyday contact with? Meet someone from a different team or virtually meet someone from a different site?


〰️Set a challenge for your team to discover interesting and surprising facts about mental health and share on a Time to Talk noticeboard (digital or physical). You’ll soon see that mental health is a lot easier to talk about with some thought-provoking conversation starters. Why not spend some time as a team at the end of the week to discuss the findings.

〰️Here’s an interesting fact to get you started: Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik announced in 1998 that he was experiencing a depressive episode, and took three weeks of sick leave, before returning to office. Bondevik said he received thousands of supportive letters.

Discover more activities for groups and individuals recommended by Time for Change for your workplace this Time to Talk Day. Our personal favourite is Spontaneous 8, designed for teams to come up with creative ways of starting conversations with each other. 

Conversation is contagious, why not continue with the momentum achieved on Time to Talk Day by running a series of workplace events addressing wellbeing, health, and employee happiness?

Help your business change the conversation around mental health by empowering your workforce with the tools and knowledge they need to build valuable relationships and sustainable teams in the workplace today. Discover more about how HappyMaven’s employee wellbeing strategies can support robust, productive and happy teams through tailored workplace wellbeing coaching and workshops.

Watch our video about the importance of human connections to go futher

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