Today, 10th October is World Mental Health Day. First celebrated in 1992 - World Mental Health day is for education, awareness and the advocacy against the social stigma attached to mental health issues. The theme for this year is workplace wellbeing. 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem this year and nearly 1 in 3 has experienced a mental health problem whilst in employment.
Research undertaken by the mental health charity Mind found that 56% of employers said they would like to do more to improve staff wellbeing but don’t feel they have the right training or guidance. One of the most important skills to develop when helping, and supporting a colleague or loved one who is mentally ill is simply to listen – a skill that can often be overlooked.
Samaritans wants to encourage people to listen to the really important things their friends, family and colleagues need to tell them, and to actually devote some time and attention to being better listeners. When people feel listened to, it can save a life.
Become a better listener with the Samaritans SHUSH listening tips.
- Show you care.
Life can be extremely busy and in this age of constant digital connectivity, multi-tasking has become the norm. Samaritans says that to really listen to somebody, you need to give them your full attention, maintain eye contact and be engaged.
Getting into this habit takes practice so don’t be too hard on yourself and keep using these handy tips:
- When starting the conversation resolve not to talk about yourself at all
- Keep a listening diary- just for a week. Record how many times you listened really well, note what challenges and distracts you and what you think went well.
- Aim to learn at least one new thing about the person who is talking to you.
- Have patience
Time is key when listening to someone. The person sharing shouldn’t feel rushed, or they won’t feel it’s a safe environment. If the other person has paused in their response, wait. They may have not finished speaking. Remember it might take them some time to formulate what they are saying, or they may find it difficult
- Use open questions
Use open questions that need more than a yes or no answer and follow up with questions like “Tell me more”.
An open-ended question means not jumping in with your own ideas about how the other person may be feeling.
These questions are objective and require a person to pause, think and then hopefully expand. Avoid asking questions or saying something that closes down the conversation. Open-ended questions encourage them to talk, the conversation is a safe space that you are holding for them and nothing they say is right or wrong. Try asking, how are feeling today?
- Say it back
Check you’ve understood, but don’t interrupt or offer a solution. Repeating something back to somebody is a really good way to reassure them that they have your undivided attention and you can check to see that you’re hearing what they want you to hear, not putting your own interpretation on the conversation.
- Have courage
It can feel really intrusive and counter intuitive to ask someone how they feel. You’ll soon see if someone is uncomfortable and doesn’t want to engage with you at that level.
You will be surprised at how willing people are to listen and how, sometimes, it’s exactly what somebody needs to be able to share what is going on their mind.
The Samaritans are a charity that offers a safe place for you to talk anytime you like, in your own way- about whatever’s getting to you.
The service is available 24hrs and 7 days a week. If you have any concerns about the Samaritans service, you can hear how they have helped others here.
For more tips and advice on mental health, you can visit the NHS website.