Mental Health Awareness Week is an annual event starting Monday 9th May through to Sunday 15th May and it has become one of the biggest awareness weeks in the UK. This week is dedicated to providing a great opportunity to focus on achieving good mental health.

Every year Mental Health Awareness Week has a theme associated with it and this year's theme is Loneliness.

                                                                                                                                                                             Photo by Christina Morillo

Why loneliness?

Loneliness has had a huge impact on our physical and mental health over the past few years, with no thanks to the pandemic and the numerous lockdowns that came along with it. That was as good of a time as any to realise the importance of connecting with a community and the people within it to protect our mental health. With that, Awareness Week is dedicated to finding better ways of tackling loneliness that in itself is becoming an epidemic.

Even since the pandemic, our society has changed with more and more of us isolated at home, attending virtual events instead of in person. In regards to the workplace, they are just as affected, many people are starting to adapt to that working from home lifestyle. Again, the key component missing in both of these situations is human interaction.

The goal!

The Mental Health Awareness Campaign asks for people and organisations to consider their 'unique contribution' in tackling loneliness, isolation and the barriers to connection. They are asking us to:

  • Raise awareness - Help people understand the links between loneliness and poor mental health, and actively check in on those around you at work and in your communities.
  • Invite conversation - Use advice, information, and conversation starters, and join their community on Clic to foster conversations about mental health.
  • Volunteer your time - Give back some of your time by helping their service users to get online or by helping them moderate Clic, keeping users safe.
  • Ask others to act - Raise these issues within your community and encourage more people to act.

Let's Connect!

Mental Health at Work 

Having that conversation about one's wellbeing is never easy, even difficult at some points. However, below are numerous tips on how you can approach a colleague at work if you are worried about them.

When you see a colleague that looks ill or has a noticeable injury would ask how they are and provide some sort of support. But when it comes to mental health, it is not easy to ask how they are doing mentally, even more so if you are worried about them, just because it might be easy to say the wrong thing - making the situation worse or potentially overstepping boundaries.

                                                                                                                               Photo by Emily Underworld on Unsplash

Sometimes, when you might ask people how they are, you might be hit with the "fine" which might be genuine but sometimes it is a response that might hold a deeper meaning and keep it all in.

Remember there are no perfect ways to start a conversation about someone's wellbeing. But being non-judgemental, kind and empathetic will go a long way in helping. Nobody expects you to be an expert, but by listening and helping signpost someone with extra support or information, you will be able to make a big difference. 

The right conditions

It is important to give some thought to the how, when and where you might broach the conversation:

  • Choose a place and time where you can speak privately - like a walk outside or grabbing a coffee. If needs be use a quiet meeting room. You do not want to have people listening to the conversation from the other side of the room.
  • Choose the right time - If you do not wish to be interrupted then suggest having the meeting during a break or lunchtime.
  • Create the right situation for active listening - it will be better to sit/ be beside them and give affirmation or verbal nods.
  • If you're working from home then be aware you may need to demonstrate active listening more verbally on a phone or video call.

Ask open questions 

The person you wish to speak to should feel comfortable speaking about their well-being and that all starts with asking the right open questions. Some examples:

  • "How are you today?" - sometimes making it about the present can prevent the ubiquitous "I'm fine" response.
  • "I've noticed you haven't seemed yourself lately, tell me how you are feeling"
  • "How do you look after yourself?"
  • "What support do you have in place? Are there people you can talk to?"
  • Reassure them it's okay to talk.
  • "I want you to know that I'm here to listen and help if you need me to."