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World Mental Health Day: How to check in with a colleague

At Socitm Advisory, we are dedicated to the wellbeing of our employees, especially their mental health. As this Saturday, 10th October, marks the 2020 World Mental Health Day, in the days leading up to this we will be sharing a series of blogs written by members of our team with the theme of "Listen".

How to check in with a colleague

Sometimes we say we're fine when we're not.

But, with 1 in 4 people experiencing a mental health problem this year alone, if a colleague says they're fine, they might not be. To really find out, ask twice.

Asking people "How are you?" isn't always enough - you need to ask twice.

If we want people to open up about mental health, we need to show we are willing to listen.

A person is likely to say "I'm fine" on average of 14 times a day in response to "How are you?". Time to Change's 2018 report also found that more than 78% of us say we are fine when we are struggling with a low mood, anxiety or other mental health problems. More than 55% of respondents said this was because they did not believe people wanted to hear the honest answer.

This has been particularly prevalent in recent months while remote working, with fewer opportunities for face-to-face interactions and being limited to digital forms of communication. There's also a danger that we might minimise our own mental health and wellbeing in times of crisis. Asking twice encourages us to break this 'pleasantry' barrier to show real care, concern and value towards one another.

The simple act of asking again, with interest, shows a genuine willingness to talk and listen.

Here are some of the ways you can ask twice

Asking twice does not mean asking the same thing again. It means different things. The following are a few different ways you can show that you are there for your colleagues:

"Are you sure?" - short, simple, but very effective. This allows your colleagues to open up if they want to, or reply with a "yeah, I'm alright, thank you", safe in the knowledge that you actually want to know that they are.

"Cool, you know where I am if you need me" - this is a great one, as it lets people know that you have clocked that they're down, without confronting them to reveal the truth, all the while reminding them that they can go to you if they need you.

"How's work?" - if you land on an area that they want to vent, great. If not, they know you care.

"Have you been watching [insert TV show here]?" - sometimes changing the subject is a good way to stop prodding people. By chatting about everyday things, you can support colleagues in feeling a bit more comfortable and relaxed.

"Nice one, having a tough day myself, if I'm honest" - when you express something that is on your mind, it helps to remind those you are speaking to that it is OK to talk to other people about their worries. Being honest with each other is valuable, and it shows that you are prepared to share and listen.

There is no right or wrong answer here. But if you ask twice with interest, listen and take what your colleagues have to say seriously, it can show you are open to hear more if and when they are ready to talk. As we work from home, it is important to not let the screen get in between us and to make that effort to check in with your colleagues.

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