The art of being approachable
We recently ran a networking event, of sorts, at the company headquarters. The theme of the day was Mental Health and Well-being in the Workplace and it was well attended, with people leaving hopefully having learned something and gained a new insight.
I don’t need to tell you, this topic has been hot news for the last couple of years. What was once a taboo subject is now something you read about almost every day.
A thought I can’t seem to shake though is, are we talking and acting upon these discussions, or merely discussing something we know is important, but don’t necessarily understand.
Of course, I don’t mean to generalise. Some will be able to grasp the topic, some will have first-hand experience, some people experts. However, what worries me is that people, employers, employees, leaders, are saying all the right things, but would they actually know what to do, should a problem arise?
If you are at work and a colleague approaches you with a small cut, you grab the first aid kit and log the injury in the accident book. If somebody bangs their head, or has a fall, you’d know to take them to hospital so that they can be monitored. What would you do though if somebody confided in you, if they told you they’d suffered a panic attack; if they told you they were so depressed they’d been struggling to bring themselves to work; if they finally felt brave enough to tell you about a previously undisclosed, diagnosed mental illness?
There is no right or wrong answer, right here, right now. I strongly believe though, that this is what we need to be concentrating on. We should carry on convincing people that speaking up is desperately important, by all means, but we need to make sure we are ready when this happens.
At the event previously mentioned, I’ll admit that I learned there, that Mental Health First Aid training is indeed a thing. You can have in-house, mental health trained first aiders, who apply words to wound instead of plasters – absolutely brilliant! They will be able to advise those in distress, relay messages in confidence to those higher up and help decide on the best course of action going forwards.
Sarah Kelly from The HR Hive, who ran the talk at our forum and was the one who brought this to my attention, says
“Life is serious. Work is serious. People are more vulnerable than ever… But it doesn't need to feel this hard or scary.” – Which is why she setup their own mental health first aid programme.
I personally think this is the best and most effective starting point for anybody on a professional level, who is worried that they may find themselves in a position where they want to help somebody, but don’t know how, and is definitely something we will be investing in across our four offices.
It seems fitting to be writing this on World Mental Health Day, as I’m hopefully doing my part to help local business owners and HR professionals in taking that first step, to help others.