Yesterday was Bell Lets Talk Day, for those who are not familiar with it, people were using the hashtag #bellletstalk to show support for mental health, and to raise money for mental health programs in Canada. Over the entire day, nearly seven million dollars were raised in support of this campaign. This is an annual event, which takes place in January of every year and encourages people to reach out to others, and to share the stories of how mental illness has affected them, or their loved ones. Bell Lets Talk is a great initiative to start the conversation, but what happens today, when we are no longer raising money? People tend to go back to their lives, and make no changes to helping people living with mental health issues. What are some ways in which we can make a difference, and encourage more conversation and less stigma around mental health for the rest of the year?

Work environment is crucial to mental health; a toxic work environment can leave people miserable, and those affected by anxiety, depression, or other mental illnesses may be triggered in these kinds of environments. As businesses, we need to make sure the environment we have created for our workers is safe, and enjoyable.  Mental health days may be an important addition to your workers policies that you can look into. By allowing your workers days off, if needed, this will show your workers that you value them, and their mental health, and may open the door to good conversations about mental illness.

Creating dialogue about mental health is a great place to start with someone, it shows support, and can create a trusting relationship. For many people living with mental illness, having someone to talk to, and have someone be there just to listen to them, can make all the difference. A few tips for how to listen well to someone talking about their mental health include:

  • Always listening and responding without judgement. This is not a time to call someone out for something that they did, or to “down play” the issues they are disclosing with you. It is important to take whatever they tell you seriously, because it is negatively affecting them.
  • Never turn the conversation to be about you. If the person shares something you find relatable, it is not a good time to tell them “I know exactly how you feel”, because even if it may feel like that, and if you did share a similar experience, your situations are incredibly different, and you don’t have any idea how they really are feeling. We are all different, and experience things differently.
  • Never push them to talk to a specific person. Although you may not feel like the best person for them to talk to, and you may want to suggest them telling their spouse, partner, or a certain family member or friend, it is never a good idea to suggest a specific person because the person you may suggest could be attributing to the problem.

Starting a conversation about mental health is the first step to end the stigma, the next step for us is to make sure the conversation continues. Let us know how you handle conversations about mental health in your workplace in the comment section below.

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