How to be a Mental Health Ally

Here are some signs to look for – and a useful list of things you can do if you see anything that causes you concern.

Today is World Mental Health Day, dedicated to removing the stigma of mental illness and promoting mental wellness through understanding and allyship.

But what if your mental health concern isn’t for yourself but for someone else?  A friend, a colleague or a family member?  The more you understand, the better equipped you are to recognise the signs that someone’s struggling.  The more you know, the better an ally you can be.

They may say:

  • I’m not in a good place right now
  • I’m having a hard time
  • I’m just not myself
  • I can’t focus or think straight as I’ve got too many distractions

They may act:

  • Differently to their usual vocal style, being quiet if they are usually talkative or talking very quickly
  • Low, body language, slumping, moving slowly, having little energy
  • less willing to engage with colleagues or friends, cancelling social events, often at the last minute

What you can do to help:

  • Explain that YHG is a supportive employer and would look to provide the appropriate support for colleagues who are not well
  • Be calm and open to conversation – perhaps suggest going to a quiet space to have a chat
  • Let them speak and explain what they want to share – try not to interrupt or finish sentences with what you think is the issue
  • Try to clarify by repeating the meaning of what they say back to them, for example, “I’m hearing that you’ve got some personal issues with (whatever) and that you’re having difficulty concentrating at work – is that right?”
  • Allow them time to speak and to have a recovery time– so if somebody says they can’t deal with life or work right now, try to make it possible for them to log off or leave work and take some time out for them, so that they can deal with how they feel and come back to work later – if they canAsk how long they would like to take and agree some target boundaries.
  • Remind them that they are not alone, and remind them of our team of Mental Health First Aiders if this is not something you feel comfortable discussing further
  • A useful tool can be found here:
    Depression and anxiety self-assessment quiz – NHS (www.nhs.uk)

Language we can all adopt to either ask for help or check in with someone:

  • Do you fancy a tea or coffee sometime?
  • I’ve noticed you’re not your usual self, shall we go somewhere for a chat?
  • What can I help you with?
  • I’d like you to know that I’ve had some difficult periods in my life, that anything we discuss is confidential and that I’m here to help – not to judge.

SPECIAL NOTE

  • If at any time you have a feeling that the colleague may be considering suicide, please ask outright if they are considering ending their life. Talking openly about suicide helps. You may be the first person to allow them to speak about suicide and you should arrange immediate support from a Mental Health First Aider or a Helpline like:
    Samaritans – You can call Samaritans free on 116 123 if they want to talk to someone now. Papyrus – Contact HOPELINEUK – If they are having thoughts of suicide, or are concerned for a person (up to age 35) who might be, they or you can contact HOPELINEUK for confidential support and practical advice. Call: 0800 068 4141, Text: 07860 039 967, Email: pat@papyrus-uk.org
     

Here’s more information about mental health and wellbeing at [Redacted], this World Mental Health Day