Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Start the conversation

I spent a long tube journey between King's Cross and Morden last night without music, a book or flicking through my phone. Instead I sat reflecting and thinking about the remarkable event I had just attended, the speakers who'd been so honest and energised the people who I'd shared it with. That time felt precious.

This was the #HR4MH evening, organised in just three weeks and which attracted dozens of HR people, employment law specialists and business development experts. There's not enough kudos in the World to share out between the fabulous team who worked to make this happen, and the speakers who shared their personal stories, expertise and insight so freely with us.

It was refreshing to speak with people without the stigma which the wonderful @BipolarBlogger described as "a boulder", which if we all push against, will eventually move out of our way and clear the path we must travel. That stigma affects our quality of commuication and understanding of an issue that affects 25% of us, strips talent from businesses and costs them serious money, and makes people miserable and isolated - so why do we allow it to hang around?

There were many great ideas flying about the room around how we approach the tricky subject of mental health at work, how we manage individuals with issues, and how to handle it sensitively and with care when recruiting. I could list them here but they boil down to one act that must be the first step for any business with a desire to be a psychologically healthy workplace.

Talk about it. 

Talk about it in meetings. 

Talk about it at appraisals.

Make it NORMAL. Let's get that stigma boulder moving. It's in the way and is seriously getting on my nerves now.

Share experiences and stories just as you would about any other health condition. You'd share details of your broken leg/ diabetes/ migraines so an employer or colleague could look out for you - so why should mental health be any different?

Ask people how they are and mean it- listen to their response and don't be afraid. They aren't expecting you to have all the answers, but they'd like some understanding and respect.

Of course there will be some element of fear- but there always is for those who wish  to effect and drive change and see astonishing things happen. 

Open and honest communication never served any purpose other than creating clarity and better understanding. In the case of mental health at work, it's long overdue.

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