Employer Branding

How Can You Support an Employee Experiencing a Mental Health Problem?

When it comes to having to support one of your staff with a mental health problem there are certain do’s and don’ts. What you might think is the right approach may cause more harm to your employee even if you mean well.

It’s one of the most sensitive areas to deal with in the workplace but instead of simply ignoring your employee there are ways you can support them, and our panelists are on hand to tell you how to do it.

Nick Patel

The worst thing an employer can do is to ignore the problem.  This results in employees not being open about it at work, including discussing how their work may be impacting their illness.  If employers do not treat mental health seriously, employees will be less likely to seek treatment, which will impact their productivity and personal lives.

Nick Patel, CEO of Wellable.

Renae Shaw

Without a doubt, the worst thing an employer could do is identify an issue and ignore the problem completely. Even if there is no protocol in place, simply taking the time to ask if someone is okay can offer a platform for them to speak up and ask for help.

Stigma and misinterpretation towards mental health problems has been long in existence and so advice such as ‘cheer up’ or ‘get over it’ have been widely used when trying to help someone with depression. It is important as an employer to take the time to fully understand mental health issues to realise advice such as this is just as effective as telling someone with a broken leg to ‘get better’.

Finally, it is fundamental to not punish a person before establishing if there has been any external factors which could be causing someone to be disengaged at work.

Renae Shaw, Head of HR at Search Laboratory.

Lee Keyes

Reducing or eliminating barriers to healthcare and other benefits, reducing or eliminating stigma which may be built into policies (intentional or otherwise), ensuring that disclosures by or about the employee are under the control of employees. Also working to advocate for good mental health coverage in insurance, at the organizational, policy, and legislative levels. The worst thing an employer can do is creating or worsening barriers, creating stigma, forcing unnecessary disclosures by or about the employee.

Dr. Lee Keyes, is a Psychologist and Emeritus Director at the University of Alabama.

Emma Mamo

What will be of help to someone is very individual, so it’s important to have a conversation with your employee so they can tell you what will help.

Our Wellness Action Plans are a practical tool to use with an individual to help them identify the best support for themselves.

Steps to supporting someone are generally quite small and focus on simple adjustments to someone’s job role or extra support from their manager.

While voluntary and agreed adjustments are supportive, it’s important that people are not treated differently or asked to do things that others are not required to. Being micro-managed or made to account for all of your time can be counter-productive and discriminatory.

Emma Mamo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at Mind.

Brendan Street

The worst thing to do would be to encourage a culture where mental health and mental illness are talked about in a judgmental, non-respectful way.

The best way to ensure a manager supports the mental health of a staff member is to

1.         Set the right tone

2.         Keep it simple

3.         Notice and then REALLY listen

4.         Understand reasonable adjustments

5.         Always Follow up

Brendan Street, Professional Head of Emotional Wellbeing at Nuffield Health.

Shona Davies

Ignore it and hope it goes away/doesn’t affect their business. 1 in 4 people will suffer mental ill health at some point in their lives and the numbers are increasing. Employers must recognise this as a fact of life and put in place policies and procedures to help prevent as well manage mental ill health at work.


Shona Davies, Founder of Shona Davies Consulting.

Chieu Cao

The worst thing an employer can do is not leading by example. Managers should support sensible working hours, encourage employees to take lunch breaks and annual leave, and to recuperate after busy periods, otherwise how can we ever expect our employees to follow?


Chieu Cao, Co-Founder of Perkbox.


Lucy Faulks

The worst thing is to ignore it and not address it in the belief that there is no issue. Like physical health, mental health is a sliding scale and even if there is no-one who is visibly experiencing mental ill health currently, we know that as 1 in 4 of the population experience mental ill health at some point in their lives, the chances are there will be employees going through this currently or who will do in the future.

Lucy Faulks, Co-founder of Elevate.

Paula Whelan

It’s imperative for managers to be proactive when it comes to managing and supporting staff with mental health issues. Getting to know your staff will help you recognise when something is not quite right, and you can then offer support at the earliest opportunity. Start where the person is at, listen, and ask them what they need. Explore what, if any, reasonable adjustments would help so that as few barriers as possible remain in the way of their recovery (although don’t offer what is not possible according to company policy. ) It’s a good idea to log what you agree together and to regularly review any adjustments and amend as appropriate.

Paula Whelan, Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Right Track Learning.

Nicole Thurman

The worst thing would be adding to the stigma against mental health, which includes not acknowledging it or playing it down as unimportant. Mental health is a real issue and it’s becoming increasingly bigger – and for some reason people don’t want to accept that. When I last looked, the three drugs being prescribed most from our onsite health care clinic were for anxiety and depression. Consider the skyrocketing suicide rates in the United States, especially among young people. We have a big, big problem on our hands and employers can make the problem worse or actually try to help solve some of these problems. We are trying to do the latter.

Nicole Thurman, Vice President, Talent Management at CHG Healthcare.

By Ushma Mistry

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