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How To Deal With Mental Health Issues In The Workplace

By Features Desk

Thursday, September 1, 2016.

The topic of mental health is, thankfully, widely discussed now. The untimely death of celebrities in our communities brought the debate of mental health into the limelight. But there are some areas where it can be a taboo subject, such as the workplace. There is still a culture of fear in openly discussing mental health problems, especially among people of African descent. Conditions can vary, from stress and anxiety, to mental conditions like bipolar disorder. This article is aimed at the people who are running a business. If you have a staff member who has either experienced a mental health problem or is currently going through one, take some time to read this.

1 in 6 people in the workplace suffer with a mental health issue, and this can stop workers performing at their best. It can be trying for those running a business to take time to sit with their employees and “take stock”, and on the flip side of that coin, employees who are suffering with a mental health problem feel they cannot speak to their superiors out of embarrassment, or fear of it compromising their job somehow. If there is someone going through a mental health problem they can show various signs and symptoms such as extreme mood swings, irritability, and social withdrawal, a detailed article can be found here.

If it comes to your attention that there is an employee going through a mental health issue, there are ways in which it can be dealt with sensitively:

Choose an appropriate place to have a conversation

An open plan office, or a meeting room where there is a window where everyone can see what’s going on may cause anxiety. A quiet space where the person feels comfortable is recommended.

Encourage the person to talk

People can find it difficult to discuss their problems openly. The best approach is to ask simple and open questions to help start a dialogue with the person and to help them open up.

Ensure confidentiality

This is paramount in the workplace. You are dealing with sensitive information being discussed by a work colleague. Ask the person what information they would like to remain confidential and what information they are happy to have shared. As a referral may need to be made to Human Resources or Occupational Health.


It can be too easy to smile and nod at the right point in a conversation, but would you do it if a close friend was opening their heart up to you? This person is confiding in you in a sensitive situation and are likely to be feeling incredibly vulnerable. Respond accordingly and remain open and adaptable to their needs in that very moment.

Make the necessary workplace adjustments

After the issue has been discussed, ask the person what support they need. It may help to develop an action plan to help identify workplace triggers. Or time away from work may be required for the employee. If that is needed, upon their return, schedule a return to work interview and questions relating to mental health should be of a sensitive nature.

Mental health affects so many people in and out of the workplace, it can be caused by anything. Job dissatisfaction to grief and everything in-between. The important thing, as an employer, is to address the issue in a sensitive manner and work with the person towards them getting the help they need.

How To Deal With Mental Health Issues In The Workplace

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