Two businesswomen speaking at meeting or during break

Mental health is the way we think and feel, as well as our ability to deal with occurrences in daily life. When our mental health is good, we are more creative, productive and engaged. Mental health can be a sensitive subject and often employees won’t feel that they can open up and start discussions, so, as a manager, making the first move can be critical. Good relationships with line managers can make all the difference.

What do you need to look out for?

It is important that you get to know your team and check in with them on a regular basis in 1 to 1 meetings. Identifying a change in typical behaviour can be key, however, each person’s symptoms of mental health problems are different. Here are some potential indicators to look out for, however, some of these could be symptoms of physical ill-health too.

When you do recognise signs of poor mental health, enable an avenue of communication for the individual, allowing them space to discuss their symptoms privately, either through their 1 to 1 meetings or with a designated mental health professional or first aider.

Why don’t people talk about mental health?

Awareness of mental ill-health is increasing, however, people are still faced with discrimination and challenges when they reach out for help. Fear of discrimination and feelings of shame are among the top reasons people give for not telling their manager and colleagues about their mental health.

‘How are you?’ is a good place to begin. You should aim to ask about wellbeing in every 1 to 1 meeting. Think about open questions, not referring to the issue directly.

  • I just wanted to check in to make sure everything was okay and whether there was anything I could do to help?
  • I saw you on the phone and you looked upset, is everything ok?
  • I have noticed you seem to be a little behind in your work recently, is there anything you want to talk about?

The way you respond will affect how much the employee engages with you, so make sure that you are listening and show empathy and understanding. Ask them questions about the effects of their behaviour and what actions can be taken to help them begin to address the symptoms they are experiencing. Also, think about what further support might be useful for them such as counselling, speaking to a GP or professional services such as MIND.

Promoting health and wellbeing

We can reduce the stigma surrounding mental ill-health by encouraging people to talk openly about mental health issues, leading to a greater understanding of the symptoms and helping to ensure people seek help and support earlier.

For both the employer and employee, it is better to identify early symptoms of mental health issues and provide the appropriate support and coping mechanisms for them to remain in the workplace than to manage a return to work once the employee has reached a crisis point.

You can demonstrate to your team that their wellbeing matters by encouraging them to work sensible hours, take breaks and look at wellbeing incentives the organisation offers. It is important that everyone understands the need to look after their mental health just as carefully as their physical health.

Make sure that the employee guides you on what they want to happen next. This will ensure that they are happy with the next steps and willing to accept and engage with support. As a manager, don’t forget that you can also ask for help to facilitate this, as well as new ideas and suggestions.

Invest in your employees and your organisation with Mental Health First Aid training. Mental Health First Aiders are being introduced into many organisations and Cantium Business Solutions now work with Mental Health First Aid England to provide comprehensive training on how to support mental health in the workplace with a tailored solution to fit your organisational needs.