Dr. Jill Miller is a research adviser at the CIPD. Her role is a combination of rigorous research and active engagement with academics and practitioners to inform projects and shape thinking. She frequently presents on key people management issues, leads discussions and workshops, and is invited to write for trade press as well as offer comment to national journalists, on radio and TV. She specialises in absence management, employee well-being and the importance of promoting good mental health as well as physical health.
Thursday 5th February is #TimetoTalk day. The CIPD will be encouraging people to take five minutes to have a conversation about mental health, in particular the myths and facts around it. They want to help break the silence as they know that having a mental health problem is hard enough, without feeling you can’t speak up when things are difficult. Just a short conversation can make a big difference to someone and lets them know they’re not on their own.
Since 2009 the number of reported mental health problems has doubled, which shows that the problem simply isn’t going away, it’s getting worse. According to the CIPD’s latest Absence Management survey, 42% of employers said they had seen an increase in reported mental health problems in the past year, compared to just 21% in 2009.
One in four of us will experience a mental health issue in our working lives
Overall it’s now estimated that 1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health issue at some point in our working lives – we talk about physical health quite freely, so why can’t we talk about mental health in the workplace?
Challenging commonly-believed myths and replacing them with the right facts
That’s why Time to Talk day is incredibly important, as it encourages more awareness about mental health issues and the ways in which we can support ourselves and others. It’s about challenging commonly-believed myths and replacing them with the right facts.
Just a short conversation can make a big difference to someone and lets them know they’re not on their own. Anyone can suffer a mental health problem, and often those who have an issue feel too afraid to report it to their employer as the stigma against them is still widespread – this cannot be allowed to continue.
Time to Talk day – an opportunity for employers to take the lead
Time to Talk day is also an excellent opportunity for employers to take the lead; get creative and use the day to make staff aware of the wellbeing programmes they have in place and signposting who employees should talk to if they have any concerns. It’s important that managers feel equipped enough to talk to employees about mental health, and know where to find the support they need to do this.
Organisations should adopt a positive attitude: There’s no health without mental health
Organisations should adopt a positive attitude towards those experiencing or recovering from mental health issues, as they would for those with physical health problems. Equally with recruitment, where possible, reasonable adjustments should be made to ensure people with a mental health problem are able to enter employment and make a positive contribution to organisations.
A Department for Health report published in 2011 said there’s no health without mental health. It’s so true that we talk about physical health much more readily than we do mental health. Here are some simple ways we can support our own and others’ mental health and wellbeing:
1. Are you being your own best friend?
Think about how you support your own mental health and well-being. We often get caught up in supporting other people or ‘life just takes over’ and we can forget to look after ourselves. Can you put aside even an hour a week to read your book, have a bath, meditate or go for a walk?
2. How comfortable do you feel talking to your friends or colleagues about mental health?
Sometimes, it’s the little things that make the biggest difference. The #TimetoTalk advert explains below how asking someone how they are is all it takes to make a difference to how they’re feeling.
3. Do you know what support your organisation offers?
Often employers invest in employee assistance programmes and counseling services for their staff, but sometimes staff don’t know how to access them. Ask your HR department to do a desk drop, put up posters and put the contact numbers for these services on the intranet.
4. Where can people go for help if they need it?
Although the aim of Time to Talk Day is to get people talking about mental health in general (e.g. myths and facts) rather than about an individual’s own mental health, it’s important to know where you can get help or signpost people to help if needed. The organisation Time to Change has developed a list of mental health help and support services: Take a look here.
5. Get involved in #TimetoTalk day
Take five minutes on 5th February to have a conversation about mental health. Talk at work over a cup of tea, online, or with your friends and family. Find out more here.
Follow the conversation on Twitter at #TimetoTalk