Time to Talk Day 2021 – mental health

It has never been more important to encourage people to talk about their mental health

Having open conversations about mental ill health will help break down the stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness. For Time to Talk Day we share some tips for supportive conversations around mental health.


We know the power and importance of enabling conversations about mental health. So many people are finding the current times are impacting on their wellbeing, with this increasing the longer we are living with restrictions to our lives.

Often people would like to support others through difficult times but are worried about not knowing what to say or about saying the wrong thing. We can all initiate conversations. Supportive conversations about mental health are not just the responsibility of a line manager or a MHFAider.

    time to talk day 04/02/21

    Tips for a supportive conversation

    1. Don’t wait until someone is not ok

    You can start a conversation with anyone. Remember, the public face may not be what they are feeling underneath. People can be very good at putting on a ‘brave face’ when really struggling underneath. In the current world, few people will be unaffected. Even if someone is totally ok, they will likely still appreciate someone expressing concern for them.

          2. Create the best environment to talk

          Make sure you have the time to listen. The best intentions are undermined if you have to rush off part way through a response. Check you are unlikely to be interrupted. If a phone call explain where you are to create a feeling of safety ie you won’t be overheard.

              3. Take time to build connection

              Jumping straight into questions about how people are feeling may not always be the best approach. Rapport is the sense of connection we need to build with someone if we want them to talk freely and trust us. Techniques to do this will vary depending on media. Look at matching body language, voice tone and pace, and picking up on key words they use.

                  4. Practice non-judgemental listening

                  This is a skill we should all practice. Our view of a situation will inevitably be influenced by our experience. When we listen non-judgementally, we are aware of this and consciously put it to one side, so it is not influencing our response.

                      5. Ask open questions

                      Questions that encourage people to talk should not be answerable with one word. Avoid questions starting with ‘Why’ as they inevitably elicit a defensive response which will break rapport and not encourage sharing. As examples, try questions starting with:

                      – Tell me about…
                      – Would you explain a bit more for me?
                      – What might be helpful for you right now?

                          6. Remember empathy not sympathy

                          To quote Brene Brown ‘rarely does an empathic response start with ‘at least…’. Don’t try to get people to see the ‘bright’ side, acknowledge and understand their pain and their feelings. A helpful response might include ‘I can see you find this difficult; would you tell me a bit more?’

                              7. Self-care

                              Supporting others can be draining. When we start conversations, we can never be sure what will be shared and the impact it may have on us. If you have had a difficult conversation with someone take some time for some self-care to replenish your resources. This may include taking a break, a deep breathing exercise, or de-briefing with someone (if appropriate and being mindful of confidentiality).

                                  Who could you contact today as part of #TimetoTalk Day?

                                      Contact us for details

                                      If you would like to learn more about how to hold these conversations and raising awareness of mental health; about self-care; or training to become a Mental Health First Aider, please get in touch.


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