Mental health issues can affect anyone at any point in their lives, and a quarter of us will be touched at some point. Stress, anxiety, depression – whatever the issue, it can affect every aspect of daily life and impact a person's ability to carry out their duties at work. As an employer, you have a responsibility to care for your employees and offer them support.
The first thing to do is familiarise yourself with the signs and symptoms of a range of conditions. People suffering with their mental health are often very good at masking it, because mental illness is still widely misunderstood and they fear the existing stigma surrounding it. Many will fear judgement and worry their employer will find a reason to show them the door.
If you think you've spotted the signs someone is struggling, the best thing you can do is quietly let them know they always have someone to speak to. You don't have to question them directly –forcing their hand is often the very worst thing you can do.
Just give them the space and let them know you're always happy to talk. Building an open and supportive workplace culture is vital – showing support before it's needed is the most helpful thing to those with a mental health condition. It means co-workers are more likely to be supportive too.
If an employee is brave enough to open up to you and tell you they are struggling, you need to show compassion and empathy. Try to understand their circumstances a little better – what triggers bouts of their illness, what tasks are they finding particularly hard at work, what can you do to make things easier?
Your aim is to enable them to continue their work in adapted circumstances. You want them to perform to the best of their abilities and feel valued, not just by you, but by the wider team. Do that without drawing attention to them, and you'll help them with their recovery.
Familiarise yourself with the symptoms
Let them know you're happy to talk
Build an open and supportive workplace culture
Empathise and show compassion
Help by adapting their role