Posted on January 2020 By Elle Elkins
According to Time to Change, mental health problems affect one in four of us yet too many people are made to feel isolated, ashamed and worthless because of this. ‘Time to Talk Day’ is nationally recognised as a day that encourages everyone to be more open about mental health with the aim being: “to talk, to listen, to change lives.”
Whilst it may seem that there is more support and acceptance of mental illness than ever before, research from Time to Change suggests that up 90% of people who suffer with mental health issues experience some form of stigma either from friends, family, work, education or even during treatment. In turn, this means that 60% of people who do have a mental health problem wait over a year before telling their closest family and friends about it.
In support of Time to Talk day, we have created some suggestions on how to talk to people with a mental illness:
Ask the question
Simply asking “How are you?”, “Are you okay?” or “How are you feeling?” can sometimes be all that is needed. You may find that the person does not want to talk about their illness at this time, but just knowing that someone cares enough to ask the question can be enough to support them for when they do feel ready to talk.
If someone opens up to you about their mental health, it is important to give them the time and space they deserve, without judgement or interruption. Some people find talking face to face intimidating so if you notice them breaking eye contact and/ or fidgeting, you could suggest going for a walk. If you are at work with little privacy, you could ask if they would like to talk in a meeting room or go and grab a coffee off- site. Creating the right environment can show that you care and actually want to listen.
Know what to say
Nobody is asking you to ‘fix’ the problem and it won’t just magically go away because you’ve told someone to “get over it” or that “there are bigger problems in the world”. Everybody’s feelings are unique and they are all valid. Try to aim for empathy, not sympathy. For example, instead of saying “Don’t worry, everyone feels like that sometimes”, you could say, “I’m so sorry to hear that you’re feeling like this. It must be really tough for you”. Remember, sympathy is acknowledging another person’s situation; empathy is understanding what they are feeling because you have either experienced it yourself or you can put yourself in their shoes.
You may feel it is appropriate to suggest that they see their GP or open up to a friend or family member. If you are in a position to, you could offer to drive them to their GP appointment or even sit with them whilst they talk to friends or family. It is important however, to remember not to try and take control of the situation but to allow them to make their own decisions. If the problem is very serious or if you believe that they are in immediate danger, you should call Samaratins on 116 123 for emotional support 24/7; NHS on 111 if they need urgent, not life threatening care or call 999 if they are at risk of taking their life or seriously harming themselves. For more information on who to contact during a mental health crisis, click here.
Time to Talk 2020 will be held on Thursday 6th February and Syntech Recruitment are hosting an internal coffee and cake event on this day to encourage our colleagues to speak up about mental health.