How to talk about mental health

Talking to a colleague about mental health can be difficult, but it is not necessary to be an expert in mental health to start a conversation. It’s important to remember that talking could make all the difference to them.

Talk About Mental Health

Here are some tips that might help:

  • Find a suitable place and time - a private video or telephone call, a walk in the park, over a coffee.
  • The conversation could be started with a simple ‘How are you?’ Once a person knows they are being given the space and time to talk, they often will.
  • Actively listen to the person, and give them your undivided attention. Keep your phone switched on silent and refrain from looking at your watch.
  • Don’t interrupt - try to leave any questions or comments you may have until the person has finished. 
  • Ask open questions: – What support do you have in place?  What would you like to happen in this situation?”
  • Use positive body language, and encourage the person to continue with small verbal comments like ‘I see’ or ‘what happened next?’
  • Check your understanding by paraphrasing what the person has said back to them.
  • Respond by using empathetic statements such as: “I appreciate this must be difficult for you…”
  • Avoid clichés. Comments like ‘pull yourself together’ or ‘what will be, will be’ are not helpful.
  • Don’t make the conversation about you: avoid saying things like ‘I know how you feel’ or ‘The same thing happened to me.’
  • The important thing is to listen, rather than give advice, the individual needs to be able to act for themselves. 
  • Be reassuring and signpost them to support such as LawCare, HR, another colleague or suggest they visit their GP.
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