How to Speak About Mental Health in the Workplace

How to speak about mental health in the workplace


As a manager or leader within your organisation, you no doubt want to do everything you can to make your employees feel supported and welcome in the workplace. While you may do plenty to ensure they have all the tools they need to succeed at work, you might overlook some of the things they need to encourage a strong attitude toward mental health.

The Australian government notes that about 4 million people across the country suffer from a mental health issue each year — that’s about 20% of the nation. And that’s in a normal year: We all understand just how trying 2020 has been for people not only in Australia, but also around the world. As such, it’s important to make mental health a bit more of a focal point going forward, so that all your employees will feel more comfortable at work, especially if they are struggling.

It's vital to give employees the support they need in trying times.It’s vital to give employees the support they need in trying times.

If you want to centre this issue in terms of how you deal with your workers on a daily basis, it can all start with a good conversation. Of course, mental health is a tricky subject to broach, so the following tips should help you get your effort right:

Start a conversation

Often, if you want to make sure everyone is on the same page for a certain topic, you first have to bring up that topic in a public setting. SANE Australia recommends that you start by talking about just how widespread an issue this is — nearly half of Australians will deal with a mental health issue at some point in their lives — and that you, individually as a manager or as an entire organisation are ready to support anyone who comes forward.

That messaging should not include pressure to come forward, as people’s problems are their own business, but if they feel comfortable doing so (whether publicly or privately) then they should do with the full knowledge of whatever resources you have created for them.

Get rid of the stigma

Everyone is likely to experience some amount of stress in their lives, whether it’s a personal or professional burden that’s leading to that negative feeling. Some people may respond better to that stress than others. Anxiety, depression, loss of motivation and so on that stem from these issues do not say anything positive or negative about a person.

The best way to get rid of any stigma that’s still associated with mental health issues is to get out as much information about these issues as you can and lead by example when it comes to both attitude and behaviour. When a manager is proactive about being understanding and accommodating, that can guide the entire course of a team’s response.

Understand the current circumstances

Mental health issues may be particularly prevalent these days, given the tumult in the world, and especially the anxiety that can accompany trying economic times and a global pandemic, according to Heads Up. This can be the perfect way to bring up the issue and potentially get workers to be a little more open about their difficulties. That, in turn, can help inform some of the decisions you make about how you move forward amid the lockdowns.

The key to talking about mental health in the workplace, at the end of the day, is to help your employees feel safe and supported no matter what they are going through. With that in mind, managers may want to consider taking the Psychological Safety course from ICML. Doing so will give them the tools and training they need to get their arms around this issue as an organisation.

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