When people see the words 'mental health' in an article, hear it in a conversation, or see it in the agenda of their monthly meeting, there are generally three different types of responses from people.

First, you have those who internally sigh, wish they could think of a reason to excuse themselves from the situation, and don’t get it, no matter how much they try. If you’re one of these people, you might even be hovering your mouse over the big X button. But, give me a chance here

Second, you have those who may be slightly more familiar with concepts within mental health. They are internally nodding, but still maybe a little bit disinterested. They've heard it all before. As a leader or comrade of business, they've given it a chance but not entirely sure what all the effort achieves.

Third, there are those who totally get it. They have either been there themselves, had a close person to them who have gone through it, or even have worked with an employee whose been there. These people are the advocates; those who see the value, who want to help, and are on the train with us in changing the world of mental health.

Now, if you've stayed reading until now, you are probably smiling at the fact that one of these responses very closely resembles who you are when you hear the words mental health.

And if you are smiling because you know you sit in the first or second group, I wanted to say tell you that this is nothing to be ashamed of.

One of the many things that humans naturally struggle with is understanding and bridging the perspective gap that exists between each and every one of us. Studies have shown the struggle for an individual to see another person’s perspective unless we are physically or mentally in the same state as them. So, of course, for those who have been lucky enough to escape mental health issues, I am happy that you don’t know what it feels like. But, unfortunately, there are far too many people who do know what is feels like, and millions of people who battle with their own mind everyday, without anyone around them knowing.

Mental health isn't just about being aware of what depression or anxiety or bipolar is. It isn't just about learning how to meditate and asking people if they are OK. It is about being human again. It is about changing our culture, opening up, and showing empathy to our colleagues, our customers and our leaders.

Let's say you have a difficult customer and the relationship manager is struggling to deal with them. The customer is changing their minds a lot, has recently become scattered in their directions, they are speaking rudely to your staff, and it is impacting the internal culture of your team. Nobody wants to talk to that customer, and suddenly you have your staff avoiding doing certain pieces of work.

Little is anyone aware that the customer at hand has been dealing with on and off depression for 20 years of their life. It has recently gotten worse because their kids have moved out and their marriage has started to show cracks. They are struggling in their job because their attention isn't focused anymore, and because they are suddenly becoming rude, they are being treated poorly back. They don't know how to get out of the vicious cycle and feel at a loss to talk to anyone because, to them, nobody will understand, and they will lose their job if they open up.

Your team had recently been through our mental health program teaching them what mental health really means and why it doesn't matter if you're thriving or struggling, it isn't something to be afraid of. Your team understands the impact of lived experience on the reality of how we live our lives, and how best to address it when it enters their workplace.

Suddenly, your RM thinks about the situation more deeply, why the customer might be acting this way, and they start to change their approach to the situation. Their approach becomes opens to the awareness and knowledge of how our minds and lives work so differently. In response, the RM begins to open up about their own life to the customer, and before you know it, the customer has opened up to let the RM know that their mental health isn't doing so well right now.

What you have now is something that other teams cannot offer. It is called empathy. Showing empathy to your customer, colleague, employee, allows them to seek the help they need externally, and suddenly you are beginning to remove the guards that were harming your team. Not only have you done the right thing for the person who is struggling, but your team is also able to manage their mental health from understanding the different gaps between them and the person at hand.

Empathy is free. It is natural, but in the modern day and age, it is almost as though we’ve forgotten how to practice it. It is time to put down our weapons, and see ourselves eye-to-eye. Mental health would no longer be as scary as it currently seems.

It isn't about sympathy anymore, it is about empathy.

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