Around 10 million people will experience a mental health issue each year in the UK. We believe talking about mental health can help you and those around you to be happier and healthier. So this World Mental Health Day, Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England is calling on everyone to ‘Take 10 Together’ – and have a meaningful 10 minute conversation - with a friend, a family member, a colleague or student about their mental health.

Mental Health First Aid teaches people the skills and confidence to recognise the signs and symptoms of common mental health issues and effectively guide a person towards the right support. Having a 10 minute chat is the first step on that journey.

Download the free Take 10 Together Toolkit for more mental health tips, social media graphics and a wall chart to show that you will Take 10 Together on World Mental Health Day.

Starting the conversation

57% of UK employees say they have experienced mental health issues at work but less than half of that group felt confident to open up about it.  We don’t often talk about our mental health so it might seem a little daunting to start a conversation about it but it’s important to remember you don’t have to be an expert. MHFA England has put together some ideas for how you can start the conversation.

Choosing a setting

  • Make a cup of tea, coffee or grab a cup of water. Whichever you choose it’s a great way to ask someone a quick ‘how are you’ and ask for a private meeting
  • Give yourself plenty of time so you don’t appear to be in a hurry. 10 minutes may be enough but if you need longer then go ahead
  • You don’t want to be disturbed so turn your phone off or onto silent
  • Meeting outside the workplace in a neutral space such as a café might feel less intimidating

How to ask the questions

  • Keep your body language open and non-confrontational  
  • Be empathetic and take them seriously
  • Do not offer glib advice such as "pull yourself together" or "cheer up"
  • Take into account cultural differences in communication styles e.g. how much eye contact is appropriate
  • Keep the chat positive and supportive, exploring the issues and how you may be able to help

Useful questions to ask:

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

How to listen non-judgementally

  • Give the person your full focus and listen without interrupting.

  • Pay attention to their words, tone of voice and body language - all will give clues to how they are feeling.

  • Accept them as they are. Respect the person's feelings, experiences and values although they may be different from yours. Do not judge or criticise because of your own beliefs and attitudes.
  • Don't make a moral judgement. Be genuine - show that you accept the person and their values by what you say and do.
  • Get on their wavelength: Place yourself in the other person's shoes and demonstrate to them that you hear and understand what they are saying and feeling.


What happens next?
  • Keep the conversation going - follow up and ask them how they are doing. Reassure them that your door is always open, and really mean it.  It's particularly essential to keep in touch with an employee who is off sick.

  • Give reassurance that there are lots of sources of support and some of these might be available through their workplace, such as the HR or Occupational Health department, Employee Assisted Programmes or on-site counselling. 

  • If you work in a company with limited support services it’s also appropriate to encourage the person to visit their GP for guidance around accessing the NHS funded programme ‘Improving Access to Psychological Therapies’. 
  • For more guidance around how to approach and respond to a colleague who is experiencing a mental health issue download our free Line Managers Resource.


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