Creating the conversation around mental health

One in five employees feel as if they could not tell their boss if they were experiencing a mental health problem and one in five will need to.  It is very important that they are given the opportunity to speak out and seek support without feeling discriminated against. Managers should be willing to raise awareness for mental health and be approachable when it comes to opening up about an issue one may have. Creating a conversation around mental health is of significant importance within the workplace to ensure your staff are happy and healthy. Healthy staff means higher productivity and a decrease in absences (37% of absences are related to mental health).

There are many different ways in which you can discuss mental health with your employees. Below is a brief guide on how to support and help an employee struggling with their mental health:

  1. Make every employee aware that you are more than happy to discuss their mental health and help them to find the support they need. This is best done through an informal one to one meeting, not via email or phone. It is best to include it along other topics such as career aspirations, training needs, general health, stress at home and stress at work. Do not prompt those with a mental health condition to come forward in front of colleagues as many would not due to fear of discrimination. Let everyone know it's an open forum for conversation!

  2. Think of a place in which you can discuss peoples mental health, and make sure this place is quiet and relaxing. It needs to be private but informal and it should be part of your regular one to one meetings with the employee.

  3. Encourage your employees to talk, but do not force them. No matter what you say, some people will still feel uncomfortable talking about their mental health. If the topic seems to make them extremely on edge, do not keep telling them to discuss it with you. If asking about employee mental health becomes routine and ‘normal’, more people will feel good to discuss how they are getting on. Ask simple questions, showing no judgement. If somebody comes forward and says they are experiencing a mental health problem, ask them about what they think is causing the problem, what you can do to help and what support they may need in place. Be genuine.

  4. Research common mental health conditions so if somebody does say they are experiencing something, you are fully prepared and are aware of the support you should be putting in place for them. Only a handful of mental health problems will need extra support in place as the majority of mental health conditions may not affect with an individual's work.

  5. Ensure there's honesty. If somebody is becoming affected by their mental health when it comes to their punctuality and/or quality of work, this needs to be addressed straight away. When you address it keep an open mind and listen to what they think they may need in order to be supported. Think about how you would act if they told you they had a physical condition that is affecting their work. Do what you would then.

  6. The majority of employees will feel a lot better talking about sensitive topics if confidentiality is promised. Discuss what information can be shared with whom beforehand to avoid any breach in confidentiality.

  7. Encourage people to seek help if needed. If somebody is experiencing a mental health condition, they have more than likely already visited their GP and have an ongoing treatment plan, however there is a lot more support that can be given. Your company may have an EAP, counselling line and/or other support that could be available to you.

  8. Don’t make assumptions. Do not assume that somebody is experiencing a mental health condition just because you notice a symptom an individual is showing which could relate to a mental health problem. Many people may display traits some times linked with a mental health problem, but it does not always mean they have said problem.

  9. Create a plan of action with the employee. Discuss a plan of action with the employee in order to create a plan, including the signs of their problem and what symptoms could potentially affect their work, their triggers and how they could be avoided within the workplace, who they should call in an emergency and what support is needed. Knowing a plan is in place will allow the employee to feel supported, understood, and automatically at ease.

  10. Introduce self help tools. There are a variety of self help tool that are available to employees, including ‘Feel Stress Free’, that many organisations have invested in. Feel Stress Free was created and developed by UK leading psychiatrists and psychologists using clinically proven techniques to prevent and build resilience to stress, anxiety and mild depression. Feel Stress Free can be downloaded at for every employee. This will allow them to prevent and manage the condition in the early stages and help them seek further help if necessary.

Creating conversation and reducing the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health will result in happier employees, a healthier workplace and higher productivity.


Sam GlassComment