Talking to your employees about mental health

Tuesday October 9, 2018

world mental health day#WorldMentalHealthDay is an important initiative that aims to bring international awareness to the value of mental health. Whilst a hashtag can get the conversation started, a conscious effort from everyone is needed to keep the conversation open and ongoing.

What is mental health?

Mental health charity MIND reminds us that mental health is just like physical health, everyone has it and needs to take care of it. Some find this harder than others, which is why education on how to support people with mental health problems is vital.

When we talk about mental health we are referring to a person’s emotional, psychological and social well-being. The spectrum of which can be broad. From feeling a bit low, to experiencing anxiety or depression, to more severe (although less common) disorders such as schizophrenia or bi-polar.

A person’s mental health and wellbeing can also change depending on their situation. So it’s important to recognise that symptoms are not always present or permanent. All aspects of life can be affected from daily decision-making to the ability to form or maintain relationships. A person’s work can also be affected. But with the right information and attitude towards mental health problems, employers can help employees in need.

Where to start with mental health in the workplace

Taking care of your employees is taking care of your business. And so, understanding and approaching mental health is an important part of your people management strategy.

A discussion with your employees about mental health should be approached in the same way as any other health related topic. Read our top tips below to help you feel prepared.

Be approachable

Talking about mental health can be a sensitive issue. Therefore, it is advised to make your workplace a safe place where employees can approach management and ask for help when needed. You can do this through breaking down the stigma of talking about mental health, having an effective mental health policy and training your employees on topics such as wellbeing at work.

Starting a discussion can be a step in the right direction towards supporting your employees. What may start as a difficult conversation can end up being positive progress. It can also help you decide if changes in your workplace or workforce could be beneficial.

Be informed

The Australian Human Rights Commission reports that a total of 3.2 days per worker are lost each year through workplace stress. As to how that can affect business, early research shows that over $6 billion is lost annually by Australian businesses who fail to provide early intervention or treatment for employees with mental health conditions.

So it certainly makes financial sense to be informed on mental health matters in the workplace and know your legal obligations as an employer.

Recognising the signs and symptoms of mental ill-health can save time, money and lives. Speak to us today about what you can do to be well informed on mental health in the workplace.

Get ahead with resources

You may feel as though you are not best suited to speak with an employee who is experiencing difficulty with their mental health. And that’s why there are resources available to help you take care of your staff and your business.

The Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance established by the National Mental Health Commission is the government’s approach to accessible guidance and resources on how to maintain a mentally healthy workplace. Being informed can help you feel prepared and can reassure your employees that support is available.


If an employee has expressed difficulties with mental ill-health, it is wise to check-in with them from time to time to see how they are doing. This will keep the conversation open should they need access to further support. It can also help you to decide how best to deal with any potential absences.

For further advice on talking to your employees about mental health see our top tips on encouraging good mental health in your business.

Your own mental health is as important as your employees. Get peace of mind that you are legal and compliant with your people management by calling your local HR Dept professional today.

Preventing People Problems

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