This Thursday, 7 February, is Time to Talk Day.
It’s an opportunity for all of us to talk openly about mental health, whether we've personally suffered poor mental health or not. And it’s a chance to learn about the different ways of reaching out, or of supporting a colleague, if one of you needs help to cope.
Just knowing when to talk and when to listen can help. Having a mental health condition, even if it can’t be cured, doesn't have to stop you living a full and rewarding life. And sharing a personal experience of living with mental ill health can inspire others.
So it’s time to talk mental health.
But how do you find time and space to talk about such a personal issue in the face of so many pressures?
How talking inspires action
It’s natural to be worried about showing ‘this is me and I need help’, but lived experience and sharing your mental health story can be great motivators for making a difference.
Cecilia Da Forno is driven by her personal battle with depression to embed wellbeing, resilience and openness around mental health conditions in the recruitment and development of Civil Service Fast Streamers.
Cecilia says: “Mental ill health is not a guilty secret. But what to say and how much information to disclose is still a struggle for many, and ultimately it remains a personal choice. Being open about what support you need increases your chances of thriving on the [Fast Stream] programme. Even if you don’t require anything specific, knowing your colleagues and cohort leader are aware of your situation removes the burden of secrecy.”
What can you do today?
Whatever your mental health condition, there are things you can do today – and every other day – to help you live the life you want to live.
There are events happening across the Civil Service for Time to Talk Day, with HMRC deserving a special mention for mixing management, networking and social events to break the stigma, including:
- The HMRC Choir formed in 1948 will be performing at a ‘Time to Talk in Tune’ singing and wellbeing event in Bush House, London.
- A 'Talk the Channel’ challenge in Glasgow will see colleagues join for a 21-mile walk – the equivalent of the length of the English Channel – while discussing mental health topics.
- The mental health walks and talks in Belfast, Southend and Worthing will encourage people not to wear earphones or use their phones, so they can walk, talk and take in the views.
- Ipswich will have a cake and crafts day to understand ‘the right ingredients’ for creating mentally healthy workplaces, finishing the session with empty plates and a multi-coloured artwork displaying people’s ideas for making it happen.
What can you do tomorrow?
If you have the courage to talk about mental health there is a shared responsibility to listen. All senior civil servants are learning how to be wellbeing confident leaders and create work environments which feature strong relationships that allow people to flourish. These conversations should be two-way, but you have to know when to talk and when to listen. The Samaritans’ Wellbeing in the City campaign provides an active listening e-learning guide to help you do this.
There is more than one way to share how you feel and access support. You just have to find the way that works for you, such as:
- asking a manager or colleague for help
- confiding in a mental health first-aider
- seeking support from a Civil Service network (such as the Cross-Government Mental Health Network)
- phoning your employee assistance provider to enquire what support is available, including counselling
- going digital with the Charity for Civil Servants’ Wellbeing DogBot
- getting a prognosis and professional advice from an occupational health provider
- Chat to the Charity for Civil Servants’ interactive counsellor DogBot
- Cross-Government Mental Health Network
Check your departmental intranets for news of Time to Talk Day advice and local activities you can get involved in; and for information on Mental Health First Aiders (or equivalent), Employee Assistance and Occupational Health Providers, and Workplace Adjustments.
For more information about Time to Talk Day and resources to raise awareness and support others’ mental health, please also see the Time to Change website.