Starting the conversation

09 October 2018

Around 10 million people will experience a mental health issue each year in the UK. Taking 10 minutes to start a meaningful conversation can really brighten someone’s day. However if you’re worried about someone’s mental health, whether it be a friend, a family member or a colleague, it’s sometimes hard to know what the best things to say are. Here are a few tips on the best settings, topics of conversation and questions to ask when starting a much needed conversation with a colleague.

Choose a setting

Meeting outside work in a neutral space may feel less intimidating for the individual. It’s important to give yourself plenty of time so you don’t appear to be in a hurry and their feelings and views are all listened to. Maybe grab a hot drink or a glass of water, try and make the situation as relaxed as possible, it’s a great way to ask someone a quick ‘how are you’.


It’s important for the individual to feel as if they have your full focus and ensure you listen without interrupting. Someone’s words, tone of voice and body language will all give clues to how they are truly feeling. Be genuine and show that you accept the person and their values by what you say and do.

Accept them as they are

Even if someone’s feelings, experiences and values may be different to yours, respect them and do not judge or criticise because of your own beliefs and attitudes.

Talking tips

Keep the chat positive and supportive, discuss the issues and explain how you may be able to help. It’s important to keep your body language open and non-confrontational and be empathetic, showing that you’re taking them seriously. Keep in mind cultural differences in communication styles, such as how much eye contact is appropriate.

Some useful questions to ask

  • How are you feeling at the moment?
  • Who do you feel you can go to for support ?
  • Are there any work related factors which are contributing to how you are feeling?
  • How long have you felt like this – is it an ongoing issue?
  • Is there anything we can do to help?

What to do next

Follow up from the conversation to ask them how they’re doing, reassure them that your door is always open and mean it. Give reassurance that there are many sources of support out there, most of which may be available through work.

That one chat could make a life-changing difference, so please consider taking 10 minutes out of your day to pay attention to how your loved ones or colleagues are feeling.


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