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How to keep a mental health conversation going

Mental Health Awareness Week is happening from Monday 9 May to Sunday 15 May 2022 in the UK.

What can you do as an internal communicator to keep the conversation going?

The Mental Health Foundation is the UK’s charity for everyone’s mental health. With prevention at the heart of what they do, the charity aims to find and address the sources of mental health problems. They have over 70 years of experience and expertise working towards a world with good mental health for all.

I recommend checking out The Mental Health Foundation’s website, including their excellent publications and resources, including Zoom backdrops.

I’ve invited Dan Holden, one of our new All Things IC Communication Consultants, to share his advice on communicating mental health with colleagues. Outside of work, Dan is a facilitator with Fresh Air Fridays, a group that helps individuals and organisations focus on their wellbeing outdoors.

I’ll hand you over…

Rachel.

Mental Health Awareness Week

How to keep a mental health conversation going

Each year, The Mental Health Foundation organises ‘Mental Health Awareness Week’ in May, and for 2022, the theme is loneliness. This is more prevalent this year given the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on all of us, whether it’s having not seen family or friends or, like myself, becoming a full-time home worker.

Over the last few years, I’ve seen more and more organisations share the work they will do to support positive mental wellbeing. It’s encouraging to see and shows that we’re making progress in the right direction in encouraging more people to talk openly about their mental health.

I always encourage comms teams to challenge themselves and their organisations to make sure Mental Health Awareness Week isn’t about ticking the box to say they’re communicating about mental health.

Wellbeing is a theme that should be featured throughout your forward planner but remember, everyone has a part to play. I’m saddened and have been there myself when it’s left to the comms team to develop the wellbeing plan for the year. Your HR and leadership teams have a big part to play in defining and developing your organisation’s wellbeing offering.

So, whether you’re picking up a last-minute request to recognise Mental Health Awareness Week or planning a more comprehensive campaign, I’ve shared some ideas below to help.

Text: together we can tackle loneliness. Mental Health Foundation

1) Explore for yourself what you’re promoting.

There is nothing better for a communicator than to be immersed in the topic of conversation. One of the best ideas a HR business partner once shared with me was trying for myself activities such as calling the Employee Assistance Programme and asking questions on the call about what colleagues might expect. Other ways could be joining a People Managers’ mental health training session, watching online webinars, and trying out some suggested activities offered by the likes of Mind and the Mental Health Foundation.

2) Plan for the long haul.

Grab the opportunity to plan beyond mental health awareness week. We can all only absorb so much information in the week space, so look at how you can keep sharing resources after the 15th of May. It could be that you use the week to launch a new content feature, maybe hearing from a different colleague each week on their lived experiences.

3) One size will not fit everyone.

Wellbeing offers communicators the opportunity to think about our different audiences and adapt our content to reflect our organisations. Step away for the moment from your audience personas and feel a little differently. There are a lot of mental health resources available to support parents, carers, colleagues with protected characteristics, children and family members. We don’t always know colleagues’ circumstances outside of work, and so the more excellent range of signposting we can offer, the greater the chance of being able to help someone.

4) Ask colleagues for their help and input.

Every organisation is at a different stage on its well-being journey, so be honest about this. If you’re working somewhere where talking about mental health isn’t embedded yet, it’s ok to acknowledge this. Perhaps speak with your leaders about using the opportunity to ask colleagues what support they need from the business throughout the week. The week allows you to listen and take the first step in encouraging conversations actively.

5) Don’t forget about your managers.

As I’m sure we know, managers are often the first person colleagues turn to when they need support or to talk in confidence. If your internal communications encourage colleagues to speak with their managers, give managers guidance and support in advance to help prepare them.

I recall a situation where a colleague spoke to their manager about a situation happening outside of work, and due to the sensitive nature of the subject, the manager didn’t know what to do next and ended up taking time off for themselves as a result of bottling up their own emotions.

6) Make the most of the toolkits already out there.

Never feel as though you have to start with a blank screen.

The Mental Health Foundation and other charities such as Mind provide a fantastic range of resources from downloadable guides, graphics and videos you can share, to name a few things. Have a look at the links at some of these organisations and charities and if there is one you feel aligns with your organisation, perhaps consider signposting to their content throughout the year.

Some excellent articles have helped me over the years that I’ve shared below for the workplace and mental health.

Further reading via the All Things IC blog:

Why we need to talk about mental health in Comms

How to communicate World Mental Health Day 2021

Paws for thought – giving colleagues a voice on mental health

How to communicate Mental Health Awareness Week 2019

Workplace focused

IoIC ‘Take Care of Yourself’ series.

CIPD – People Managers’ guide to mental health

People Manager – Employee wellbeing needs to be a year-round conversation

External organisations and charities

Mental Health Foundation

Mental Health UK

Mind

NHS

Rethink Mental Illness

Time to change

YoungMinds

Mental health support for comms professionals

How to look after your mental health as a freelancer

How to stay mentally healthy if you work in comms

Comms Unplugged podcasts

CIPR Members – Health Assured service

I hope you find these resources helpful.

If you are having conversations about mental health inside your organisation and would like to share your story, do get in touch. Our blogging guidelines are here to help you.

Post author: Dan Holden.

First published on the All Things IC blog 4 May 2022.

Photo of Dan Holden. Text: My journey from in-house to consultancy by Dan Holden, Comms Consultant, All Things IC

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