How can you support an employee struggling with a mental health issue?

May 19, 2022

Talking about mental health issues is not easy, but it is important leaders are prepared to have conversations with employees who are struggling.

Harvard Business Review offers the following tips to help ensure you are well-equipped to discuss mental health issues with employees.

  • Prepare yourself. Identify and discard assumptions or preconceptions you may have about mental health conditions and the people they affect. Educate yourself regarding your company’s mental health resources, and consider your own history with mental health and whether you would be willing to share that with others.
  • Find a good time to have a conversation. Watch for signs such as lack of concentration, missed deadlines, decreased communication or unexplained absences. Try to have a conversation when the employee seems approachable or relaxed. It also helps to remember some people show no outward signs of struggle or work concerns.
  • Start gently. Talking about mental health should feel normal. Asking a question such as “How are you feeling today?” can help start the discussion. But do not force the conversation. Follow the employee’s lead, and take an open, genuine, empathic approach.
  • Reassure. Remind the employee of how he or she was able to overcome challenging tasks in the past, and reassure him or her that things will be OK. Many people with mental illness fear being disliked or rejected once others learn about their issue, so be sure employees know they are valued and needed. Continue to gently check in while having normal conversations.

Tags: Safety | Workforce


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