Conversations Change Lives - Big Conversations about mental health

Conversations Change Lives

Jessica Carmody, Chair of KPMG's Be Mindful Network discusses the importance of Time to Talk Day.

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Today we have more choice about how we communicate with others than ever before. The rise and rise of social media in addition to email, text, and dare I say it, telephone, letter and… fax… have bombarded us with ways to present ourselves – our personalities, thoughts, images and our beliefs. And continuing this into the work place, many businesses have followed suit and provide their employees with a plethora of media with which to communicate with their colleagues.

The point is: we talk. We talk to each other. And we do it a lot. But alongside all that talking there are things that we just don’t say. 

Currently in my office people are mainlining Lemsip and Strepsils, and there’s a strong scent of eucalyptus in the air. Discussions of cold symptoms in our office are as rife as the colds themselves. But at this time of the year, just as at any other, 1 in 4 people will be experiencing some kind of mental health problem. It’s fair to say that they may also have a cold, but it’s also highly likely that discussions around mental health will not occur, even privately.

This has to change. When people do not feel able to ask for support or empathy in this way they may reach a crisis point. When managers do not feel equipped to address the topic with their employees it could have potentially life threatening results. With approximately 17 suicides in UK each day the need for better communication around mental health cannot be ignored.

Talking about mental health as a sufferer is a watershed moment. Speaking from personal experience, you have no idea what your manager / husband / friend is going to say. You certainly may not consider broaching it in an open office, and you’re likely to need to prepare for it. How many examples of people talking about their mental health have you seen in your office?

When it is received with support it can be a huge relief to talk, no matter who to. You no longer carry that burden alone and an element of fear is diminished. 

Hiding illness, whether mental or physical, is damaging. One conversation with a manager or colleague, in order to get help, could be the start of many. 

In time the misconceptions surrounding mental health problems will be reduced, the more people know the more they will understand. Remember that the person you confide in does not need to be an expert in mental health. Offering respect by listening, being kind and considerate, and openly offering support is what is needed.

We are lucky at KPMG that support for mental health and encouragement for individuals to talk openly about this topic comes from the top. Our leadership team promotes open support, awareness, and learning in order to create change for the better.

All conversations matter, and every conversation we have to increase awareness of mental health, or to support someone, could change a life.

I will be celebrating that on Thursday in our KPMG Big Conversation event on Time to Talk Day. It doesn’t matter how we talk about mental health. It just matters that we do.

For more information please contact: 

Angela Pink, Communications Executive, People and Corporate Responsibility

T: +44 (0) 20 7694 2679

M: +44 (0) 750 010 0257

E: angela.pink@kpmg.co.uk

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