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Mental Health Awareness: Opening up Conversations about Mental Health

by Holly T.

May 05, 2022


Next week is Mental Health Awareness Week 🧠

This is an annual event for the whole of the UK to focus on achieving good mental health. The Mental Health Foundation (@mentalhealthfoundation) started the event 21 years ago and each year they set the theme, organise and host the week. It has grown to become one of the biggest awareness weeks across the UK and globally.

This year’s theme is Loneliness, which is affecting more and more of us in the UK and has had a huge impact on our physical and mental health during the pandemic. Loneliness is the feeling we experience when there is a mismatch between the social connections we have and those that we need or want. Our connection to other people and our community is fundamental to protecting our mental health and we need to find better ways of tackling the epidemic of loneliness. We can all play a part in doing this.       

So, in May 2022, we will be raising awareness with the help of our friends at Tula (@tulawellbeing) – a collective of experts and leaders in mental, emotional and physical health – to offer some practical ways to understand mental health better, and offer tools to support one another. 

Reducing loneliness is a big step towards a mentally healthy society. Many of us have experienced loneliness at some point in our lives and it can be a cause of poor mental health or a result of it – we can all get involved to make this better.

Today, we are focusing on Opening up Conversations about Mental Health. Tula have shared the below tips with us on how we can open up these conversations 👇 

What emotional support can I offer? 

If someone lets you know that they are experiencing a difficult time or struggling, it’s common to feel like you don’t know what to do or say – but you don’t need any special training to show someone you care about them. Often just being there for someone and doing small things can be really valuable. You don’t need to have the answers, it’s about allowing the other person to be heard 💚

Active Listening

One of the main ways we can open up conversations about mental health and offer emotional support is through active listening. All you’re doing is listening, and from time to time giving responses which encourage the other person to keep talking. That’s the key – let them be heard.

Active listening involves doing the following things:

  • Ask open questions. Rather than asking questions which only require a yes or no answer, try to ask open questions. That way, instead of closing the conversation down into a yes or no response, you open it out and encourage the other person to keep talking. For example, you could ask: “Has this been going on for a long time?” or “How long has this been going on?”
  • Summarise what you have heard. This helps to show that you’re listening and you’ve understood.
  • Reflect back something they have said. This helps people go on, showing that you’re listening and engaged in what they are saying.
  • Clarify what they are saying. We all skirt around or gloss over the most difficult things. If we can avoid saying them, we will. If the person you are talking to skirts around something, ask them to tell you more, especially about difficult topics. You want to know because you care.
  • React to what they tell you. Some sympathy and understanding is vital. Show your caring human side by saying “sorry that sounds difficult” or “I’m pleased you’ve told me”.

To ensure you’re creating a supportive environment, you can use these tips:

  1. Listen
    • Use active listening. You do not need to fix or have answers.
  2. Offer reassurance
    • Normalise the difficulty – often it’s shame that stops someone talking, worrying what you might think of them.
  3. Avoid making assumptions
    • Try to be curious by asking questions to understand rather than assuming you know how it feels for them or what will help.
  4. Stay calm
    • Stay calm so they can see they can talk openly without upsetting you and if you are calm it will help them be calm. 
  5. Be patient
    • Be patient, especially if someone doesn’t want to talk – you can’t force them. This can be frustrating and make you feel powerless if you can see someone is struggling. 

Want to know more about Tula?

Tula wants to shift the conversation around workplace wellness. By supporting teams from the ground up. Think of them as wellbeing strategists. Identifying your needs, within the context of your business culture, and giving everyone the tools to actually feel good and do good.

They help leaders and teams better understand themselves. They dig deep into the fundamentals of what it means to be happy, healthy and function well. Using our expertise to inform each session, workshop and conversation.

For more information on Mental Health Awareness, please head to The Mental Health Foundation or Mind.org

Header image by Riccardo from Pexels.