A little more conversation: It's time we were open about how we really feel

Jessica Carmody
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Today is national Time to Talk Day which aims to break the silence around mental health (Source: Getty)

How many of you will greet your colleagues today with “Hi, how are you?”

Probably quite a few of you, because it’s the traditional way that we begin our day, our meetings and the way we say hello to anyone we know in passing, whether it is in the lifts, the queue for lunch or on your morning commute.

But for all those colleagues, or friends even, can you say you truly know how they are? Did you both exchange the usual “fine thanks, and you” which usually follows that common question? Or did you actually take the time to chat about each other’s wellbeing?

Most of us live our lives surrounded by people, but through the glass walls of meeting rooms or the shiny filters of Instagram, we can only see what is on the surface. And that is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to supporting workplace mental wellbeing.

Today is national Time to Talk Day, which recognises the importance of having conversations on the topic of mental health, in order to challenge stigma and break the silence around this topic.

Those who suffer with mental ill health can often feel isolated if they are not able to discuss this topic openly, whether in a family or work environment.

Being able to be more open about our own experiences makes it easier for someone like me, who has depression, to let other people know if, and when I need support. One in four people in a given year will experience a mental health problem of some kind, so talking about this is vital.

But actually, all of us, four in four, have mental health – good, reasonable or poor; however we don’t discuss it or support it as openly as we do physical health.

Working in the fast-paced, 24/7 environment in which we live can feel high-pressured and unrelenting. I certainly feel this in my day to day job where I can often feel exhausted and overwhelmed at various points, as do my team.

There is no perfect solution to the challenge of sustained workload and pressure, I really wish there were. I can’t magic away the workload, create new team members or reduce the scope of the projects we need to deliver, so I have to think about what we can do, with none of those options available to us.

I need to find ways to work together with my team to try to keep us all as well (both physically and mentally) as possible.

It should never too busy to ask your colleagues how they are – how they really are – and wait and explore the answer. I had a hard time throughout last year and I know my team did too.

If asked, they would tell you how I brought in bags of Oreos to keep spirits up, but, joking aside, this clearly wasn’t enough.

When working in a team it is so important for managers and colleagues to show that they care about one another.

In our team it helped to know that even though things were tough we were there to support each other through those difficult times. Talk about things – not just mental wellbeing – openly. Speak about your day to day work so that no one feels they are working in isolation.

Take breaks! Individually members of my team went on holiday, even though it seemed we would get the work done faster if we worked on through.

I know I could not have stayed healthy without taking a break as I needed to recharge my batteries.

As a result the team are still going strong, in one piece, gearing up for February’s fast pace once more. And if progress can start with a simple “how are you?” It’s a conversation worth having, don’t you think?

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