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How would you start a conversation with someone, maybe it's a friend or a colleague that you think is experiencing mental ill health?

I think that your first thing to think about is, it probably needs to be a really private conversation, so the person feels a little bit more at ease. It is not an easy thing to do, but I think you could start by saying something "I have noticed that things have been difficult for you at the moment or you don't seem yourself or is there something really bothering you because I don't feel that you are like you normally are." It's leaving it really open so that they can say what they need to say, and they need to have confidence in you that it will be confidential, that it will be private unless they say differently.

What would be the single most important thing for people to do?

Would it be to offer advice, or to listen to them or I think it would be to try and make the conversation as non-judgmental as possible so that whoever you are talking to, feels they can say what they like without being judged because that is probably why they haven't sought help before?

Why would people be reluctant to start a conversation about mental health?

Well, as I've said, I think they fear being judged. Other things, maybe if it is an employee, they feel that their employer will change how they see them and they fear that things will not be kept confidential. It is the same in a group of friends. If you tell one friend, you are frightened [chuckle] that they would go run and tell all the other friends, and maybe in a family that is so as well, because mental health has been so much under the radar for so many years, it is quite difficult sometimes for people to say they have an issue with this, and they are looking for someone who they feel they can trust. I think that is really important. They want to be able to say what they feel they need to say, in a non-judgmental and trusting atmosphere.

Within the work environment, what is the best way for people to achieve or to make it so that people are comfortable to come forward and speak without fear that it may affect their prospects going forward, or how do you create that sort of environment?

I think this depends on the sort of business that you are running but most employees would welcome the chance to know that there is help available and how to access that help. Employers need to recognise the importance of providing help and resources for employees if employees know this is available and know that it will be done in a confidential way. Either it is the employer, the HR department, some firms have a person designated to help employees with anything like this, and that again, is done confidentially or they might have access to outside counselling and therapy for their employee, but employees will have a much happier workforce, more engaged with what they are doing, and less sickness as a result of providing these services for their employees.

So it really is beneficial for businesses?

It is, it is very beneficial. Long-term issues can be dealt with outside of all of this, but as a short contract of counselling can help an immediate problem and identify longer-term issues, but employees do need to know that it is on offer and can be accessed.