Be Kind: Taking mental health seriously in the workplace

World Mental Health Day 

This Sunday, October 10th 2021, is World Mental Health Day. It’s hard to believe that it’s now been almost 30 years since the day was first observed. In the period since I think there have been significant advancements in the conversation about mental health and we must continue to have days like this to bring the focus on mental health.

Despite this, problems still remain. As the MD of a small business that employs around 40 staff, it’s very important to me that, as a business, we take mental health seriously in the workplace. We’re still in a position where 1 in 6 working-age adults have symptoms associated with mental ill-health at any given time, and figures show that mental health problems cost businesses in the UK almost £35 billion each year.

So, the moral and financial reasons for managing mental health well in the workplace are clear. However, in this post, I want to focus particularly on stigma and discrimination.

How does language affect mental health?

Think about the types of words and phrases that you associate with mental health. For a lot of people, it’s easier to think of negative ones than it is positive ones. A lot of us will think back to language we heard on the playground, or have sadly heard in our workplaces, that paints people who experience ill mental health in a negative way.

I think it’s vital to think about the impact of the language we use on others. If the language across society around mental health is generally negative, is it any wonder that people feel stigmatised, or don’t access the mental health services that might be able to help them?

For me, it’s not about policing the language of anyone individually. In fact, I think it’s important to be compassionate and understand that everyone comes to conversations around mental health from a different place. However, if we all take the time to consider how we speak to others then I do think we can have a positive impact on the broader conversation.

What does it mean to ‘Be Kind’?

In lots of places and on various platforms I have seen more ‘Be Kind’ messages and posts than I have ever seen before. The Be Kind movement (as I like to call it) has got me thinking recently about society in general and do we really need to be reminded to be kind to one another? Maybe I’m the ultimate optimist but I thought we were already kind to one another, but then I turn on the news and see some of the awful things that have occurred, I see what we are doing to the planet and then I hear a casual conversation and the language used and I start to ask what does it mean to Be Kind?

I will admit I am no expert on the subject, but I thought I’d try to put some answers to this simple question ‘What does it mean to Be Kind?’

Be Kind is to Assess someone’s needs. Can you help someone without risk to yourself and others? I would always encourage someone to help another but only when it is safe to do so.

Be Kind is to Listen without judging. Give someone the opportunity to really open up about what it is that is troubling them.

Be Kind is to Give Reassurance. Letting someone know what it will be OK and that you are there to support them will go a long way.

Be Kind is to Encourage appropriate professional help. Someone with poor mental health may need that extra bit of support and encouragement to get the help they need. Letting them know that getting the help they need makes them strong and is a positive step forward.

Be Kind is to Encourage self-help. There are lots of ways we can help one another to improve our mental health through social circles, music, exercise and hobbies. Ask yourself would you go with someone to something new if it helped them feel better?

Think differently about mental health!

To summarise, mental health will be with us all, all of the time and to Be Kind to one another can only be a good thing. The language we use when we deal with mental health is equally important. Everyone has mental health and we all sit along a continuum, some days are good, others could be better. To help everyone and to really make a difference we need to think about mental health differently and in my opinion, we all should all be using language like Assess, Listen, Give, Encourage & Encourage some more.

If we talk differently about mental health, maybe we will start to think differently about mental health.

Mathew Bewley, 3B’s Managing Director with thanks to Rob Boardman, Quality Manager, for your input and continued enthusiasm to raise awareness around Mental Health.

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