Time to talk

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Thursday 3 February marks Time to Talk Day. Hosted by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, it acts as a reminder to us all to talk about our mental health.

We all have mental health, and it’s vital that we understand how we’re feeling, and what we can find difficult, to be able to better safeguard our mental wellbeing, both at work and at home.

Time to Talk Day is a chance for all of us to open up and talk about how we’re feeling. A small conversation has the power to make a big difference but taking the first step can be daunting and difficult sometimes.

Asking for help can be really hard, but asking if someone is ok is much easier.

Psychotherapy session, woman talking to his psychologist in the studio

Asking for help

Joanna Fairweather, HR Partner, knows first-hand how important it is to talk things through.

“A couple of years ago I was finding things tough and starting to feel anxious at home and at work,” she explains. “During a one to one with my manager I realised I wasn’t coping that well and it all unravelled during our meeting. She suggested I might want to speak to someone and reminded me about the Staff Counselling Service.”

Joanna didn’t go straight away. Like many of us, she thought her problems weren’t important enough: “I resisted this initially as thought I would be taking up a place from someone else who would need it more and felt guilty for this.”

After a few days she realised she needed to do something and registered with the Staff Counselling Service.

So how did Joanna find the whole experience? She shares more: “What I experienced during those sessions was fantastic. I found I had someone to actively listen to me and my initial concerns of not having enough to say or being seen as not needing help left me pretty quick.”

Joanna still uses what she learnt during these sessions every day: “I had five sessions in total and took away a bunch of reflections and tools that I use regularly.

“My biggest takeaway has been the need to talk, and get things off my chest before they bubble up. To act as a reminder for myself, I have a copy of a Charlie Macksey image near my desk, remembering talking about what’s going on for me is the brave thing to do.”

 Offering Support

Hands of friends with coffee cups

As Joanna found, most people experiencing a problem with their mental health will speak to a friend, colleague or family member before they speak to a health professional. So being able to support someone that comes to you, can be really valuable. ​

It can be hard to know what to do when helping someone. By having frequent, repeated, honest and two-way conversations you can ask how they are feeling, show you care and support them. Just talking about something can be a really powerful way to figure out how you’re feeling and why. It can then help you decide what other mental health help you might need, and where to find it.

Guidance is available about how to support others and how to encourage them to seek assistance: Supporting others​.

Support available

The University Staff Counselling Service offer services in person, by video via Microsoft Teams and telephone.

They are also currently working in partnership with MCL Medics to offer counselling appointments to our staff, through the introduction of the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP).

Both services allow staff to make use of up to six confidential counselling appointments, or Short Term Therapy, with trained counsellors.

The EAP is completely free and is available to all staff, as well as those living in their households over the age of 18. Appointments are available by telephone or video. You can get support and help with work problems that are impacting your mental health, or even more personal issues that you might be struggling with.

You can find out more about the support available on the counselling website.

Photography: GettyImages