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How to talk about mental health

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

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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