Workplace Health | Week 5 - Mental Health Part 3. The Conclusion

Workplace Health | Week 5 - Mental Health Part 3. The Conclusion

Wednesday 11th March 2020
Lewis Fletcher

As part of our Workplace Safety series, part 3 of Mental Health at work is here and it also marks the conclusion of this segment (at least for now). Over the past couple of weeks, we have begun to explore in depth mental health in general as well as in the workplace and how you can recognize and help someone who is suffering as well as how to look after your own mental health. In this week's segment we are going to be explaining further how you can help to support a colleague or someone who is suffering as well as providing you with a checklist for creating a mentally healthy workplace. So, without any more being said, let's get into this!

How to support a colleague

The idea of talking about mental health can be a daunting thought. However the truth is that we have all at some point had conversations with people about things such as breakups, bereavements and other life events and we know that these talks don't always start off easily but more often than not they can mean a lot to a person who is having a tough time. These talks all start with asking someone how they are doing in both a warm and authentic way. This gives them the chance to realise that you are being sincere and friendly.

However, there Is a time and a place for everything and when it comes to talking to someone about their mental health this must be a time and a place that is most comfortable for them as the last thing anybody needs is to feel as though they are being rushed. Instead, find a time where you know that you will have at least 10 minutes of clear, uninterrupted time to give that person. For a longer chat, a good idea is to arrange time either in or out of work in a place that is comfortable for them as whilst some people like peace and quiet, others prefer the hustle and bustle. When talking to the person it is essential that you devote your full attention to them. Turning off your phone during this time is also a good idea if possible.

This leads into the next essential part of helping someone and that Is vital listening. In every relationship, listening is a vital thing and the term active listening is used to describe a range of techniques that help to keep us present and engaged in a conversation. First of all, try and have eye contact. The only time an exception should be made to this is if it makes the other person feel uncomfortable. Also have your arms in a place where they are open and turned slightly towards the other person. Furthermore, you should also acknowledge what the other person is saying. This can be done with the use of appropriate nods and gestures. Also repeat what the other person has said back to them occasionally to ensure that you have understood what they have said. With this ask direct and appropriate questions but do not probe for more detail than the person is willing to give.

At the end of the conversation do exactly what you said you would do. It can also be handy to have some information with you. You can do this by putting things such as helpline numbers or website links in your phone which you can then pass straight on.
Managing your own feelings
When you hear things, which are difficult or upsetting it can be hard but at the end of the day you want to help the other person so it is essential that you don't show signs of surprise or judgement. Instead you want to be reassuring the other person that it is okay to speak to you and that you will treat what they say with full respect. It can be sometimes tempting to immediately begin suggesting solutions to problems but instead it is wiser to ask the person what they want to happen as they may welcome suggestions but they may also just want to vent.

Responding to thoughts of suicide

In a recent survey, it was shown that 20% of people had gone into work whilst experiencing suicidal thoughts or feelings.

It is a common myth that talking about suicide makes it more likely to happen. If you have concerns about a colleague that may be having suicidal thoughts the best thing that you can do is to ask them directly if they are. You can do this by asking them whilst you are having a conversation about mental health. Be plain. For example, don't use euphemisms like "you wouldn't do something silly, would you?" Instead ask them something like, "Have you had thoughts about suicide?"

If in response to this your colleague says that they are feeling suicidal or that they can't go on, or if you suspect that they are thinking about taking their own life it is crucial that you encourage them to get help. This could be done by contacting an organisation such as the Samaritans straight away on 116 123. Services like these are available 24 hours a day to help. You could also encourage them to speak to someone such as a doctor or a close friend or colleague.
If you are concerned for the immediate safety of someone or they tell you that they are planning on ending their life immediately, call 999 and ask for the police to take them to an A&E

How to support a person who has ongoing mental health problems

Most people who develop a mental health problem make a good recovery provided that they have the right support from the people in their lives.

However, for some people, an episode of mental ill-health can be a one-off event which is triggered by events in their life. Comparably though, there can be absolutely no cause at all. For other people though, mental health problems can be much more long term or be episodic over the span of their lifetime. A recovery isn't always the same as a cure and often people learn to live with aspects of their mental health problem.

By supporting a colleague who has a mental health problem you are helping them to find ways in which they can recover and stay well.

How do you support someone who is off work

Many people who suffer from mental health problems dread the thought of returning to work after they have had to be off due to sickness. This is because it can be awkward to know what to say when people have been ill. This is especially the case if it has never been talked about before or if prior to them taking ill their behaviour was unusual. To prevent this, a great way is to stay in touch, no matter whether you are a colleague or a manager. It shows someone that you care and can be great for preventing awkwardness.

You can do this by:

 Asking the person who is off work what they would like for their colleagues to be told.
 Remind your colleagues that the image which the person presented to the world might not reflect the reality. Especially if this was done through social media.
 When the staff are out spending leisure time together, invite the person who is ill along. Whilst they may decline, they will most likely still appreciate the offer.
 If you would normally socialise with the colleague then send them a card or give them a call just the same way as you would with any other health problem.
 A few days prior to them returning to work, give them a call to see if there is anything that you can do to help. This could even be something as simple as giving their desk a tidy or agreeing to meet for a coffee then walking in together. Or sitting together at lunch on the first day.
 When the person gets back, greet them. Don't fuss but ask them how they are and if there is anything that you can do to help going forwards.
 Help them to get back into the routine of work and ask if they would like any support at things such as meetings.

We hope that this blog series helps. Remember, talking to someone who is in need can make a massive difference and could possibly be life saving. If you are affected by anything in this blog please get in touch with your local GP or contact a service such as the Samaritans who specialize in these situations.

Be safe and have a great day from everyone at Direct Training GB Ltd.

See you again next week :)