Is your workplace committed to good mental health?

Did you know that it is Mental Health Week this week?

Mental Health week (from Sunday 5 October 2014) coincides with and marks World Mental Health Day on 10 October.

Mental Health Week aims to educate and engage people about mental health issues.  There is still a high degree of stigma associated with mental health in the workplace – people don’t want to admit to it for fear of being judged, or for fear that it may impact their career progression, or their performance.  So often people suffer in silence.

In workplaces, mental health issues, most commonly depression and anxiety, may come to light in the context of a performance management discussion, or when there is a crisis of some sort.

People with no experience of mental health issues don’t know what to do in these situations.

The most important thing to do if someone comes to you to talk to you about a diagnosis, or a concern that they may need help is to listen, and without judgement. The same applies if you decide to approach someone you think may need help.  It is hard for people to open up about these issues – don’t make it harder by dismissing or passing your own judgement.

Anyone can do a mental health first aid course – you can find the details here (https://mhfa.com.au).  While this topic is a long one here is a very basic list on what to do, based on the guidelines of the mental health first aid course:

A –approach the person, assess and assist with any crisis

L –  listen non-judgmentally.

G – give support and information (look at the Beyond Blue (www.beyondblue.com.au) website for example for resources)

E – encourage the person to get appropriate professional help ( and the best place to start is the GP, or your EAP service, if you have one)

E – encourage other supports (eg, family, friends – encourage them to talk)

The best thing you can do for someone suffering any illness is to be kind, and mental illness is no different.

Things NOT to say at work. And why.

There are many common words, or sentences, that are guaranteed to annoy your co-workers, or boss.  Here are a few of our favourite no-nos and why.

That’s not my job/ That’s not my problem

When you’re asked to do something, responding with ‘that’s not my job’ is the WORST thing you can say.  In some positions, whatever your boss or a client asks you to do IS your job.  If it is technically not your job, then say you’ll look after it and find someone to help get it done.

Similarly, if someone presents a problem for you to solve or mentions a difficulty they are having, express empathy and suggest where they can go for help.

It’s not my fault

When something goes wrong, often it is our natural instinct to want to avoid blame or blame someone else.  If you have made a mistake, accept responsibility, do your best to fix it and move on.

I’m so stressed

Everyone is stressed.  Studies have shown that continually thinking you are stressed and that it’s bad for you is worse than the stress itself.  Watch this TED talk ‘Make stress your friend’ – http://www.ted.com/talks/kelly_mcgonigal_how_to_make_stress_your_friend?language=en

I’ll try and get this done/ I should be able to fix that for you

Don’t try – just get it done.  Give certainty. Commit to doing what you need to do.

But this is how we’ve always done it

Open your mind to new ways of doing things – just because something has been done the same way for a long time doesn’t mean it can’t be done in a different, and perhaps better way!

I’m sorry, but

When you put a ‘but’ after an apology it completely diminishes the worth of the apology.  You are actually not saying you are sorry, you are trying to justify your behaviour.  If the words ‘I’m sorry, but’ used are a precursor to your opinion don’t apologise for having it.  If you disagree, say you disagree.

Do you think that’s a good idea?

If someone proposes something you don’t agree with, or have concerns with, say so.  Saying ‘do you think that’s a good idea’ is a passive aggressive way of saying YOU don’t think it’s a good idea.

What are your favourite ‘no-nos’ in office conversation?