I hope that you all had a happy and relaxing festive break. However, with the holiday period now behind us, it can seem a long haul to the first signs of spring.
The early part of the year can be a challenging time. Short days with dark mornings and evenings; miserable weather; transport problems; the arrival of post-Christmas credit card bills and the health impacts of the cold and flu season can leave many people feeling pretty low.
In 2016 the Samaritans published a report which showed a worrying increase in suicide rates across the UK. Men in the 45-49 age group are most at risk, and there is also a significant increase in women committing suicide. This has contributed to a greater public awareness about the importance of mental health and wellbeing, including the launch of some high-profile campaigns such as Mates in Mind and Heads Together.
There is no doubt that specialist support is required for anyone experiencing serious mental health problems or suicidal thoughts, and organisations such as the Samaritans can help people to access the support.
However, for most people experiencing a ‘post-Christmas low’ there is a lot to be said for the old adage ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’. The trouble is that we’re not very good at doing this!
2017 sees the 10th Anniversary of the Time to Change Campaign run by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, and supported by the Department of Health, Comic Relief and the Big Lottery Fund. Since the campaign began in 2007, around 3.4 million adults in England have changed their attitudes to mental health, an improvement of 8.3% between 2008 and 2014.
The campaign runs Time to Talk Day each year to promote the importance of talking about mental health and wellbeing. The day takes place on the first Thursday in February each year and since its launch in 2014 it has helped millions of people to feel more comfortable talking about their feelings, concerns and mental wellbeing. Resources are available on the campaign website to support promotion of Time to Talk Day in the workplace, schools, families and the community.
Time to Talk day falls on 2 February this year, and I encourage you all to take part. It’s a great opportunity to promote effective conversations. The question ‘how are you?’ has become a standard form of greeting in the UK and is generally met with a standard ‘I’m OK’ response. But how many of us actually feel OK all the time? And how shocked would we be if someone responded with an honest answer to this question!
Why not mark Time to Talk Day in your workplace this year by encouraging your colleagues to put some meaning back into this routine conversational exchange? There are lots of stresses, concerns and worries associated with modern life and it can be a huge relief to feel able to talk about them, to realise that you’re not alone and that other people are experiencing similar things.
It’s also an opportunity to encourage people to do something nice for someone else. Being on the receiving end of a simple act of kindness can give you a real lift, but actually being kind can be just as uplifting and make you feel much more positive in yourself. It doesn’t have to be a big thing – clearing the paper jam in the shared printer, giving up your seat on the train, helping a fellow commuter carry their luggage upstairs, picking up and returning a dropped glove or making a drink for your colleagues. It’s often the small things that can make a real difference to people.
The lighter and brighter days of spring are around the corner, but in the meantime, why not give yourself and others a lift by being kind and engaging in some real conversations to promote a greater sense of wellbeing?
Policy, Standards and Communications Director | British Safety Council