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World Mental Health Day: why you should always ask twice

Category: Mental Health, Mental Health Awareness Week, Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, depression, mental health awareness, mental health at work, DCMS

Mental Health

This article is written by Mel Collins, Deputy Director of HR Delivery and Strategic Partnering, and a Mental Health Champion at DCMS.

In October 2020, DCMS held a mental health awareness week. The theme for this was ‘Ask Twice’. Research shows that when asked, over three quarters of us would tell friends, family or colleagues that we are ‘fine’, even when we are not. So we are asking everyone to ask twice if they think that their friend or colleague is not okay, and remember that it is okay to not be okay.

We need each other now more than ever, and working remotely means that we need to communicate in different ways and listen to each other more effectively — we cannot judge body language remotely.

According to Mind, one in four of us will experience a mental health problem each year. If your friend or colleague says that they are okay, that might not be the case — so please take the time to talk to them and give them the space to open up about how they are actually feeling.

Every day, people ask us ‘How are you?’ and we reply ‘Fine thanks, how are you?’ We do this because we don’t think that people actually want to know how we are feeling or hear about our problems; we don’t want to burden anybody.

So when you next ask somebody how they are, make sure you are asking them with a genuine willingness to talk and listen. They might be waiting for your cue and asking the question again is a simple and effective way to show our friends, family and colleagues that you are asking for real — whether they want to talk now, or whenever they are ready.

Here are some tips on how to support someone who has opened up to you:

  • Take it seriously, don’t judge;
  • Actively listen — ask open questions, summarise to show you’ve listened and reflect;
  • Remember you don’t have to fix it;
  • A simple ‘that sounds difficult’ can show you care.

I talked earlier in the year about the importance of getting outside into green spaces and the benefits this can have on your mental health. Spending time outside can have the same effect as doing physical activity — even if it’s only for a few minutes during a lunch break, experiencing nature can positively impact your mental health. For me, it’s about enjoying nature alongside my passion for photography. To relax, I like to go for a walk with my dog and husband and take photos of the countryside.

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