How are you?
Not too bad, all things considered (what the hell does that actually mean?)
These are the response we usually give – and, let’s be honest, expect to receive – when we ask the question.
But how are you really? Asking a second time might just unlock the real answer.
One in four people will experience a mental health problem each year in England. And 14 months spent doing the Hokey Kokey with government restrictions, dealing with change and coping with loss has created a new level of stress and anxiety.
It’s something we are all more aware of now. Conversations are more frequent, with those facing mental ill-health seeming more confident in being forthcoming with their experiences. Employee mental health and wellbeing is high on the agenda of many businesses, most who have come to accept that a workforce which displays positive mental health is a caring and productive one.
And yet I can’t help but feel people are overlooking one of the simplest ways to check-in on someone: ask and ask again. Make doubly sure people are ok, by asking as many times as necessary to delve under the surface. Most of the time, hopefully, they really are ok. But if they aren’t, we must stop expecting to get to the heart of the matter by allowing people to brush past the “how are you?” question.
As we regain some of our freedoms over the next few weeks and months, and reclaim access to gyms, theatres, restaurants, proximity to our loved ones, family, friends and even those we haven’t met yet, our collective mental health should improve. People will be able to get back to using their de-stressors, all those things we do to ‘blow off steam’ that have been kept from us over the last year.
But, as we all know, that doesn’t mean it is problem solved. In any given week, one in six people in this country will experience a common mental health problem. All too often, early signs of mental ill-health are easily missed or swept under the rug by those who don’t realise the power of intervention. Before long, the problem can snowball and become much more damaging.
Intervention seems a big word to describe what really is quite a simple step. But the impact of asking how someone is – asking until you get an honest answer – could be life changing.
So, how are you? How are you really, ‘all things considered’?