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Speak Up, Stand Strong: Empowering Mental Health Conversations at Work

Colleagues interacting happily

While there have been some improvements in recent years, most of us still struggle to discuss mental health, especially in the workplace. Considering that we spend a significant time at the workplace and for some, it is a major source of stress, anxiety, and burnout, there must be a safe environment created to discuss mental health. 

The Importance of Mental Health Talk in the Workplace 

An employee’s performance is directly related to his or her overall well-being, which also includes mental health. When that is neglected, it can lead to decreased productivity, increased leave of absence and higher resignation rates. Ignoring employee wellness and mental health is a lose-lose situation for both employers and employees. 

Employers can build a more supportive, inclusive, and productive workplace by fostering an environment that encourages open conversations about mental health.  

Breaking the Stigma 

While people are more aware of mental health than ever before, the stigma surrounding it is still persistent. To create a safe and comfortable space to have mental health conversations, it is essential to first break down the surrounding stigma. Here’s how it can be done:  

1) Start with the leadership: The leaders and managers of the organizations should lead by example. When they have open conversations about mental health challenges, it sends a powerful message that it’s important and is okay to talk about mental health.  

Manager leading as an example

2) Awareness: Workshops and training sessions can be a great way to initiate mental health talks. It can also help people dispel myths, learn about the available resources and reduce the fear associated with discussing mental health.  

3) Provide access to resources: Offering access to mental health such as Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) or counselling services sends a message that mental health matters and that they can seek assistance when needed. 

4) Make accommodations: Reasonable accommodations for employees going through mental health conditions like flexible work schedules, job restructuring and leave of absence must be made. These adjustments can help employees cope with their mental health and feel supported at the same time. 

Employees happy with their accomodations

Tips for Talking About Mental Health at Work 

While mental health conversations need to be normalized, there are certain etiquette to be maintained while discussing this topic. 

  • Choose the right time and place: Make sure you find a comfortable and private setting for your conversations. Fewer interruptions and more time for the parties involved to have enough time to discuss the matter without feeling rushed are important.  

  • Be compassionate: Approach the conversation with sensitivity and empathy. Convey that you care and view the person not just as an employee but as a whole person. 

  • Be a good listener: Actively listen and allow the person to express themselves without interrupting or offering immediate solutions. Often, the person just needs to be heard and understood. 

Oprah Winfrey listening

  • Respect privacy: Do not press for details they are not comfortable sharing and do not share their story with anyone unless you get explicit permission to do so.  

  • Lead by example: If you’re comfortable, start the conversation by sharing your experience and struggles. This will encourage others to share their experiences and reduce the stigma around it.  

Employee leading by example

  • Check-in periodically: Mental health conversations are not a one-time thing. Check on them regularly and follow up with the person to see how they are doing. Lend a helping hand whenever possible. 

  • Guide them to resources: If appropriate, share information about available resources or support networks you know of. Let them know they do not have to deal with it alone and help is available.  

  • Promote self-care: Encourage and introduce self-care practices in the workplace whenever you can. Promote taking regular breaks, practising mindfulness, bonding sessions, and other activities that can help reduce stress. 

Business professional promoting self-care

No matter the situation, it is important to remember that it’s okay to talk about mental health issues. Reach out and offer help or just a listening ear. Lead by example, promote self-care practices and guide them to resources when appropriate. These kind gestures can go a long way in improving the mental well-being of those around you. 

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Nivetha Kannan

Content Writer, Silver Oak Health

Nivetha Kannan writes blogs on mental health and well-being topics for Silver Oak Health. She is a professional content writer and is passionate about the field of psychology & personal development. She writes impactful content that brings positive changes in people. Her mantra for life is to 'be curious and not judgemental'.