The importance of brave conversations

Friday, 23 March 2018

Any day is a good day to check in with family, friends or co-workers that may be experiencing mental health issues in silence. People who are struggling alone may be at risk of self-harm or suicide, in desperate need of help but unable to ask for it.

Initiating a conversation of this type isn’t easy- it’s often an uncomfortable, confronting situation which requires courage and preparation.

The great news is you don’t have to be an expert to have this conversation – you just have to be a good friend and a great listener.

Managing director and founder of Mental Health at Work (mh@work) Ingrid Ozols has extensive experience in empowering people to have conversations that matter.

“Firstly, we must acknowledge and accept that we will always be uncomfortable with these conversations, and any other life or death situation. That is why we are starting a journey of learning, to accept the discomfort whilst learning new ways of thinking and helping silenced issues,” said Ingrid.

“When finding the courage to face mental health issues and break down the stigma around human fragility, we need to extend our bravery a little further. In doing so, we may save a life.”

A guide to brave conversations

If you have noticed any changes in your family, friends or co-workers, use the following steps to guide your conversation:

  1. Before initiating the conversation, ask yourself if you have built rapport with your colleague or are in a good space yourself to have the conversation. If your answer is no, you may consider asking another friend or colleague to initiate this discussion instead.
  2. Start the conversation by creating a safe and supportive environment where your colleague can comfortably share their feelings. If you are at work, you may like to leave the office and grab a coffee for confidentiality.
  3. Initiate the topic by commenting that you have noticed some changes in your friend, acknowledging that life is challenging and does not always go to plan.
  4. Listen compassionately and actively without passing judgement. Try not to rush the conversation or interrupt.
  5. Encourage and support your friend. Ask, “What would help you to feel better?” “Are you aware we have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) service?” “How can I help you feel supported and comfortable?”
  6. Encourage action, by referring the person to an appropriate support service.
  7. After you’ve had the conversation, be sure to check in with your friend regularly, making sure they have connected with a support service and are receiving the help they need. This will also show you care and are concerned with their recovery and wellbeing.

We have partnered with mh@work to offer ‘Managing mental health in the workplace’ training sessions for businesses, helping break down the stigma and encourage acceptance and understanding of mental health issues in the workplace.