Mental health is a vital aspect of our wellbeing that affects how we think, feel, and act. It also influences our ability to cope with stress, overcome challenges, build relationships and achieve our goals. However, many people struggle with mental health issues at work, due to things such as anxiety, depression, burnout, or stress. Not only can these issues have a negative impact on performance, productivity, motivation, and morale, they can also affect physical health, relationships and overall quality of life.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one in four people in the world will be affected by a mental or neurological disorder at some point in their lives. Moreover, WHO estimates that depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy US$ 1 trillion each year in lost productivity. Therefore, it is crucial to talk about mental health at work and create a supportive, inclusive environment for employees who may be experiencing mental health problems.
Talking about mental health can help to:
Raise awareness and reduce stigma: Talking openly and honestly about mental health can help to break down the barriers and misconceptions that prevent people from seeking help or disclosing their issues in the first place. It can also help to educate others, fostering empathy and understanding.
Promote prevention and early intervention: Talking about mental health can help to identify the signs and symptoms of mental health problems and encourage people to seek professional help before they worsen. It can also help to prevent mental health issues from developing or escalating, by addressing the risk factors and sources of stress at work.
Support recovery and wellbeing: Talking about mental health can help to provide emotional and practical support to employees who are going through mental health difficulties. It can also help to create a positive and healthy work culture that promotes wellbeing and resilience among all employees.
How to talk about mental health at work
Talking about mental health at work can be challenging, especially if you are worried about how others may react or judge you. However, there are some steps you can take to make it easier and more comfortable for yourself and others.
Choose a suitable time and place: Find a time and place where you can have a private and uninterrupted conversation with your manager, colleague, or HR representative. Avoid busy or stressful periods, or situations where you may feel rushed or pressured.
Prepare what you want to say: Think about what you want to share and how much detail you want to give. You don’t have to disclose everything, but be honest and clear about your situation and needs. You may want to write down some notes or bullet points to help you remember what you want to say.
Focus on solutions: Explain how your mental health affects your work and what adjustments or support you may need to do your job more effectively - although it’s important to be realistic and reasonable about your expectations and suggestions. You may want to research some options or resources that could help you or ask for referrals or recommendations.
Listen and respond respectfully: Be prepared to listen and respond respectfully to what the other person has to say as they may have questions, concerns or feedback for you. Try to be open-minded and constructive in your communication and avoid getting defensive or angry if you encounter any resistance or misunderstanding.
Follow up and review: Follow up with an email or a note summarising what was discussed and keep in touch with the other person to update them on your progress or any changes to your situation. Review your arrangements regularly and make adjustments as needed.
Talking about mental health at work can be beneficial for both employees and employers. It can help to improve wellbeing, performance, engagement, and retention at work. It can also help to create a more compassionate, supportive, and productive workplace for everyone.
Find out more
To find out how we can support you and your people with these important conversations, take a look at our People Development Services at Connor Consultancy (an NFP company) or give us a call on 01491 414010.