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Keeping it in: how to approach mental health problems within your team


Mental health is unquestionably an extremely sensitive subject, and one that many of us find difficult to talk about – but that doesn’t mean we should avoid doing so. Indeed, we have a duty to go to every possible measure to support the wellbeing of friends and colleagues alike.

Employers, for example, will always stand to gain the best productivity, sales and revenue results if they help to keep their staff healthy, motivated and focused. However, the way you respond to one or more members of your team showing signs of a mental health problem also says much about your organisation’s broader values.

In short, great employers treat their employees well, quite apart from bottom-line considerations. Furthermore, with Personnel Today having reported that 39% of sick days in the UK can be attributed to mental health problems, these are issues that it is in everyone’s interests to address.

So, if you suspect that someone on your payroll may be suffering with their own mental health, what approach are you best-advised to take? Here are some thoughts.

How can I be sure that it’s truly a mental health problem?

Of course, one should never simply assume the state of a given person’s mental health. This is because we all deal with mental health issues differently, and for every employee of yours who appears outwardly stressed, there may be a similarly suffering staff member who shows no outward signs at all.

Therefore, one of the very best things that you can do for your workforce’s mental health is create an environment where employees feel able to share with you anything that may be concerning them – even the most seemingly ‘mundane’ personal worries.

Nonetheless, some employees of yours may show certain clues of something having changed with them lately. Their behaviour or mood may seem different, or their work output, motivation levels and focus may have altered. They may seem tired or withdrawn, or uninterested in tasks that they formerly enjoyed.

But how do I even talk to someone about their mental health?

It’s understandable that, as an employer, you may fret about not being adequately qualified to try to talk to someone on your team about their mental health.

However, you don’t need to be a professional mental health therapist to have a conversation with a member of your staff that could do so much to reassure both of you. Simply the skills that you use every day as a people manager – including common sense, empathy and listening – are enough.

The mental health charity Mind has some invaluable further guidance as to how you can talk to one of your employees about their mental health.

Is there anything else I can do to support my staff’s wellbeing on an ongoing basis?

Mental health is no ‘fad’ or ‘trendy’ issue – instead, it is merely finally being given the level of recognition that it warrants, given the profound effect that it has on all of our lives.

Even British Prime Minister Theresa May has spoken of the second-class status that mental health has sometimes been given in the national conversation, stating that “there is no escaping the fact that people with mental health problems are still not treated the same as if they have a physical ailment.”

However, you can also take steps to help to maintain good mental health across your workforce through the use of appropriate Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs), such as LifeWorks’ acclaimed employee engagement wellbeing solution.