Dr Tony Romero, Cygnet Health Care CEO, co-founded the Cambian Group in 2004. As Group Clinical Director, he spearheaded Cambian’s unique ‘Active Care’ model, which was instrumental to the company’s success. This article will explore occupational mental health, providing pointers to help make it easier to strike up conversations about mental health in the workplace.
It can be difficult to know how to broach the topic of mental health, particularly for colleagues who are struggling. However, opening up dialogue can be incredibly helpful in terms of making sense of and managing troubling experiences.
In addition to providing an outlet for people who are experiencing mental health problems, talking openly about mental health in the workplace helps to reduce the stigma that continues to surround the topic. When an individual speaks openly about their own mental health experiences it increases understanding, helping others to learn about different diagnoses, how to help their colleagues and where to get support if they or someone they know experiences a mental health crisis.
In an interview published on the Cygnet Health Care website, Principal Forensic Psychologist Bridgitte Calder provided expert insight on how to encourage others to share their mental health concerns, as well as providing tips on how to best support someone who is opening up about their mental health. As she points out, struggles with mental health can make people feel alone and that no one could possibly understand how they feel. However, in reality, most people would admit to having experienced moments when life just felt ‘too much’.
Rather than waiting until a colleague is struggling or for someone else to open up first, it is important for colleagues and employers to take a proactive approach to occupational mental health, starting the conversation so that workers know it is a safe place to share their feelings and experiences.
Conversations about mental health can be uncomfortable, which makes it tempting to try to avoid them. However, reaching out is a critical step in terms of accessing opportunities for support and healing. While some people prefer to speak face-to-face, others may find it easier to share their experiences in a text or letter or by talking over the phone. As Bridgitte Calder indicates, someone experiencing a mental health issue should choose the right communication method for them. Practising in advance can also be helpful.
Bridgitte Calder also recommends colleagues taking along items that make them feel safe to soothe them if they feel overwhelmed. Examples could include an object they like to hold or a favourite essential oil or perfume.
When someone does open up and admits that they are struggling, it can be hard to know what to say or do. However, compassion is key, which not only entails being kind but also having the understanding and courage to turn towards suffering and help alleviate it.
When a colleague opens up about their mental health issues, Bridgitte Calder’s tips include:
- Acknowledging their courage
- Providing reassurance that they are not alone in their struggle and it is not their fault
- Paying attention to what they are saying, including body language, and giving them space to say what they need to say
- Validating what they are saying and thanking them for sharing
- Maintaining contact and offering ongoing reassurance.
- Being patient and respecting boundaries
The more society opens up and normalises mental health difficulties, the more people can help others experiencing mental health problems to see that they are not alone in their journey; that there is light at the end of the tunnel; and that they need not be alone in navigating their difficulties.