People can be reluctant to speak with their boss or colleagues about their mood or mind state, but it doesn't need to be that difficult.
One way to help people speak up, learn about, and support mental health is to treat it as less of a big deal to talk about. To be clear, mental health IS a big deal, but treating it this way can make it harder for simple discussions to take place. Like physical health, it is a gradient and there is no point waiting until someone is morbidly unhealthy to talk about health.
Consider a score out of 10, where 10 is feeling at your absolute best, firing on all cylinders, on top of your game, 5 is pretty average or flat, 3 is quite under the pump, and a score of 0 or 1 is a person who is in real trouble.
On any given day we are likely to oscillate around an average, and if we were able to, we would take steps to edge that average score up over time. There are days when we will feel low; say a 2 or 3, but provided they are infrequent and the average is reasonably solid, then all we need to do is engage in some simple self-care strategies (which is often, just wait - eg take a day or two off to get some space and perspective) to lift us out of the hole we feel we are in.
The thing we want to avoid is having our average score reduce over time, such that we become stuck, trapped in an internal climate that causes every day to be challenging.
Mental Health is seen as significant and people might not speak up because they don't want it to be 'a thing'. This is a form of denial. They wait until they really feel 'beyond blue', overwhelmed, or in nervous breakdown territory before they seek help. From that point, the journey back is just that much farther.
The freedom to speak about our state of mind on a given day can be improved if we recognise the gradient between a 'down day' or a tough week at one end, to chronic mental health challenges at the other. People don't want to make a fuss. Normalising conversations enables people to take simple action earlier.
Wouldn't it be great for people to be able to easily discuss their mental fitness, without it needing to be "a thing", without it being a note on the employee file?
How much more could we enable people to intervene before it gets too deep, and encourage those who are really feeling it to join the conversation and put their hand up?
A consequence of feeling out of sorts is that you also feel alone or isolated. in fact isolation is both a cause AND a symptom of feeling low - these conversations help people gain comfort in understanding that they are not alone.
Flexibility comes from allowing a middle ground. The freedom to say "I'm really feeling under the pump at the moment", and to be supported simply and without fuss. "Yeah? I've noticed you've been a little quiet. Have you thought about ..........? Have you tried.....?"
Organisations that encourage the casual conversation (without blame, guilt, fear, and judgment) will improve the well-being of more people, and be more able to support those who are doing it really tough. Helping those with 'mild symptoms' is a gateway to allowing those with more severe experiences to get the help they need.
How do you normalise conversations about mental fitness and health?
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