Fear's a bitch

Jo Hooper

Fear is one of the emotions that comes up the most in my workshops, events, talks and conversations with people about mental health at work.

From the person who might be struggling, fear that they could be judged; that people might think they’re not capable; that they might be managed out.

From the manager, communicator, HR practitioner, fear that they might say the wrong thing; that they’re not qualified to have the conversation; that the person may not want to talk to them.

I’d like to offer you some reassurance that you needn’t be fearful, and some advice on how to overcome that fear.

Why fear’s a bitch

Fear keeps us quiet. It perpetuates shame.

Fear fuels our feelings of judgement. It fans the flames of stigma.

Fear stops us getting the help we need; helping the person we’re worried about. 

Fear paralyses.

Fear keeps us iller, longer.

Fear’s place is the backseat

I read Big Magic this summer – actually I listened to the audio book – I love hearing books read by the author, it feels intensely personal – like a gift from them to you.

In it, Elizabeth Gilbert talks about the paralysing effects of fear on our creativity and I’d like to share her advice with you. 

She says:

Fear will always be in the back, but don’t let it choose the route, the songs and above all else – don’t let it drive. Keep it firmly in the backseat.

Dealing with fear around mental health in the workplace

It’s all very well to say you shouldn’t let fear stop you from doing something around mental health at work, but that’s the thing about fear isn’t it – it does stop you from taking action!

So I’d like to offer you some words of reassurance around some of the biggest motivators of fear I hear.

  • “I’m not qualified” – remember, your role isn’t to be the person’s therapist, or to diagnose them. Your role is to support them, to help them find their way to the support available. You don’t have to be qualified to have a human, empathetic conversation with someone. Don’t underestimate how powerful that can be.
  • “What if I say the wrong thing?” – the fact that you’re already thinking this tells me that you are an empathetic person, and so you’ll be able to have a simple conversation with someone about how they’re feeling. To be honest, nothing you say can be worse than what is already going through that person’s head. Other than ‘cheer up.’ Don’t say that.
  • “What if I make it worse?” – you won’t. You might help that person to realise that they’re not very well, but you asking how they are won’t make their mental health worse.
  • “But surely they won’t want to talk to me?” – someone might not open up to you at first. They may not be ready, they may not want to think that they may be unwell. But they might come back to you, or they might speak to another person they feel comfortable with, either way, you’ve helped them take the first step.

I want to help you kick that fear

I know what it’s like to be fearful around mental health. I was afraid to confront how I felt. Afraid to be honest with people at work in case they thought I wasn’t capable.

That’s why I’m so passionate about now using that pretty difficult experience to help others understand how they can support people’s mental health at work.

There are a few ways I’m doing that:

  • Helping you run strategic comms campaigns to raise awareness 
  • Sharing my experiences in talks in your organisation
  • Holding workshops to help your managers understand how they can support their teams

I hope these tips have been useful, please do get in touch – I would love to work with you to help tackle the fear around mental health in your organisation.

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