Managing Staff Mental Health and Wellbeing
What is mental health?Mental health is the mental and emotional state in which we feel able to cope with the normal stresses of everyday life.
If we are feeling good about ourselves we often work productively, interact well with colleagues and make a valuable contribution to our team or workplace.
Positive mental health is rarely an absolute state. One may feel in good mental health generally but also suffer stress or anxiety from time to time.
Mental ill-health can range from feeling 'a bit down' to common disorders such as anxiety and depression and, in limited cases, to severe mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.
Many employees and line managers are uncomfortable talking about mental health.Misconceptions about illnesses persist - mental health is often viewed as something disturbing or dangerous that lurks hidden beneath the surface of someone's personality.
Managers may also be reluctant to intervene because:
- They feel they may have contributed to the poor mental health of the employee - perhaps by overloading them with work.
- They do not have the confidence or knowledge to deal with an issue and may feel out of their depth.
You do not necessarily need to be an expert or a counsellor to manage mental health conditions.A good starting point is to manage physical and mental illness in the same way by focusing on:
- effective line management, particularly around communication - with the employee and other members of staff
- awareness of the issues and the ability to empathise - feeling sympathetic may not be appropriate
- the development of an open culture in which employees feel able to discuss their problems.
What can you do to promote positive mental health at work?There are three things you can do to help maintain the mental health of your employees and help those with mental health problems remain in work and productive:
1. Spot the signs.
This may initially mean taking a note of what you see as you walk around or in team meetings and then choosing the right moment to intervene.
2. Engage with the problem.
There are some good practical steps you can take to help with coping strategies, and some legal requirements you need to bear in mind, for example your duty to make reasonable workplace adjustments to the working environment in certain circumstances.
3. Keep a watching brief.
This does not necessarily mean passively observing, although in some circumstances this may be the best option. Promote awareness of mental health issues and create a culture where employees feel they can talk to you about their concerns. Keeping communication channels open is critical.
Managing a Mental Health Crisis
Although rare, the occasion may arise where an employee suffers a mental health crisis.
This can be very distressing for the individual as well as those who are called upon to manage the situation.
The primary concern, should this happen, is the safety care and dignity of the individual.
A step by step decision path tool is available to help you determine the most appropriate way to manage an employee experiencing a mental health crisis.
Additional Resources for Managers
- Wellness Recovery Action Plan [WRAP]
- Promoting Positive Mental Health at Work
- Line Manager's Resource
- How to be Mentally Healthy at Work [MIND]
- Check your Team's mental health.
- Mind - For Better Mental Health
- Mental Health Helpline - Lancashire Care
- Mental Health Support - Help Direct, Lancaster
- Samaritans - open 24 hours a day
Get help and support from your HR Business Partner who will be able to advise you on additional professional assistance that may be available to both you and your staff member and any other strategies that should be considered.
Information on this page is courtesy of ACAS