I felt real bad for him – you could see how sad and withdrawn he was. I wasn’t sure what to do, but I felt like I needed to do something. So, I just said to him one day, ‘Looks like you’re carrying a heavy load on your shoulders, anything I can help with?’ I think I caught him off guard, but he said ‘Well, I’m embarrassed to tell you but I can’t afford insurance on my truck any longer, so I can’t drive myself to work anymore and I don’t live near public transit. I have to ride my bike 30 minutes to the nearest bus stop. Sometimes I miss the bus and I’m late for work. I’m really scared of losing my job.’ After we talked a bit more, I realised that I didn’t live that far from him, so I offered to give him a ride to and from work. He actually had a tear in his eye when I offered, and I think it helped with his stress."Sam, Trade Supervisor
Sometimes people worry about how to approach a conversation about a person’s mental health, but there are no special skills needed – just the ones you use every day as a people manager like common sense, empathy, being approachable, and listening.
If you do nothing, problems can spiral, with a negative impact for the person, their work colleagues, and your business.
Below are some tips for having a conversion about mental health:
Somewhere private and quiet where the person feels comfortable. Try to ensure there won’t be any disruptions and give ample time for the conversation.
If there are specific reasons for your concern, like frequent absences or impaired performance, it’s important to address these specifically.
People need to be reassured of confidentiality. Tell the employee that they do not need to share private details about their mental health, and that if they choose to, you will keep it confidential.
People can find it difficult to talk about their mental health but it helps to have an open culture where conversations about mental health are routine and normalised. In a workplace, there are rules that protect employee privacy around their health. It is possible to provide the needed support and encouragement in a non-judgemental way. Ask simple, open and non-judgemental questions. If there are work impacts, tell the employee clearly that you will need to address that, and it is important for them to get help to reduce those impacts. Give a clear message of support and empathy.
Everyone’s experience of a mental health problem is different, so treat people as individuals and focus on the person, not the problem. Don’t make assumptions or be judgemental, really listen to what they have to say.
Work with your employee to develop an individual action plan that includes assessment of their mental health problem, triggers for stress, the possible impact on their work, who to contact in a crisis, and what support is needed. The plan should include an agreed time to review the support measures to see if they’re working.