When people ask how we are, we often reply with “I’m fine”, even when we’re not. The Mental Health Foundation’s new campaign aims to challenge that way of thinking and get us to change our conversations. Their recent survey  found that the average adult will say “I’m fine” 14 times a week, though just 19% really mean it.

At this busy time of year, we can easily get drawn into our own bubble of busyness- trying to cope with additional family and work pressures, and trying to get through that endless ‘to do’ list before we take some well-earned time off over the festive break. We may not notice if our friends, colleagues, or family are in need of some extra support to cope with a mental or physical health concern.

Do we mean ‘Fine’?

Other findings from the survey include:

  • Almost a third of those surveyed said they often lie about how they are feeling to other people,
  • Ten percent of respondents always lie about their emotional state as they are concerned about how the enquirer will respond.
  • Interestingly the survey also revealed that 59% of us expect the answer to be a lie when we ask others “how are you feeling?

Changing the Conversation

So why do we continue asking the same question, and why do we not respond differently when we know that the person may not actually be ‘fine’?

The Scottish anti-stigma group See Me (@seemescotland) have their own #powerofokay campaign encouraging us to listen more without judgement to encourage more of us to talk and support each other.

How can we change our conversations with our network of friends, family and work connections to make those short moments more meaningful, and maybe even life changing to the people involved? Just a few kind words, or a genuine interest in someone else’s wellbeing can make a real difference to someone not knowing where to turn to or how to cope with their health or other life concerns.

So, next time someone asks ‘how are you?’, try going off the standard predictable reply and say the truth, and see how a more meaningful conversation unfolds.

For more advice on looking after your own mental health, and supporting a friend, family member or colleague with their mental health, see the Mental Health Foundation’s website or the See Me campaign workplace support tools and   feeds.