Wednesday 25 November 2020

Tips for dealing with mental health issues in the workplace

In 2018, Mind conducted a major study into mental health in the workplace. The findings were that 48% of everyone who took part in the survey had experienced some form of mental health issue in their present job role. More than ever, owing to the current pandemic, it is vital that employers put procedures in place to help tackle this widespread problem.

As an employer, you may become aware that one or more of your employees appears to be struggling with their mental health. This can throw you into a confusing situation as you carefully tread the line between providing support and infringing on an employee’s personal business. So, how can you provide support without unwittingly infringing on employee rights to privacy and autonomy?

Mental health procedures in the workplace

Having an existing framework in place before situations arise will put you and other staff in a good position to know how to assist employees. This framework should include:

Learning to recognise the signs

Although it can be difficult to recognise when an employee is suffering from mental health issues, there are signs that you can look out for which might bring about changes in behaviour. Perhaps they are taking longer to complete their work and missing deadlines, taking more sick days than usual, or are unable to communicate as they normally would with colleagues. A mental health awareness course can help both management and employees understand and manage mental health at work.


This should consist of an overall plan of steps to take should any employee experience mental health difficulties, and an individual plan for employees who have made management aware of what particular procedures help them in certain situations. Individuals that have made management aware of their pre-existing mental health conditions may want to provide a plan of things that can help their wellbeing. This may include access to a quiet room, minimal noise in the office, and staff awareness of triggers for this person.

Providing support without taking away an employee’s right to self-manage 

All staff should be made aware that they can reach out should they be experiencing any mental health difficulties. This could be to a line manager or a specifically trained mental health first aider in the workplace. If an employee approaches you, ask if they have any suggestions about how you can help them and suggest putting a plan in place to assist them day to day, and also should a crisis arise. Being in control of your own mental health wellbeing can be empowering and this should be encouraged.

Assessing levels of harm

Wherever possible, management should enable staff to have as much autonomy over their mental health needs as possible. Removing someone’s control over their own situation can be extremely distressing. However, if external factors have led to a person’s safety being at risk, you need to know when to intervene. If at any point a person is threatening to harm themselves or another person you will need to take prompt action.

Protecting those who help

Organisations can access specific training for staff who want to be mental health first aiders. Being a mental health first aider can be stressful and they can feel a huge sense of responsibility in this role. Managers need to ensure that these staff members are also given the support required. It is sensible to have more than one mental health first aider in the workplace so that if one is off work or not able to assist, another one can take their place. Make sure all staff know who these first aiders are so that there is no confusion about who should help in a crisis.

Make all employees aware of any resources both inside and outside work that they can make use of. Place these details on posters in communal areas of the workplace and also provide all staff with a copy via email or hardcopy. You can view a list of mental health charities who offer information or support here.

Visit First Psychology Assistance for details of our services for supporting employee mental health and wellbeing >