Mental health issues are common; one in four people are affected every year.
All managers will therefore come into contact with it at some point, although we know many feel ill-equipped to do so.
As a manager you know that your staff value having a supportive, understanding, flexible and open-minded manager. This is particularly important to anyone struggling with their mental health.
People with mental health problems can often still work, and the support you provide can enable them to stay in work.
The tiles below provide information on managing staff with mental health issues. Mental Health First Aid England also produces a very useful Line Manager's Resource.
Sometimes managers don’t know what to say or are worried they could make things worse for someone with a mental health issue. This is rarely the case. The important thing is not to judge the person and to approach them with empathy, sensitivity and a willingness to listen to how things are for them. Here are some hints and tips about communicating with someone:
- Try to find somewhere private to speak.
- Ask them how they are and really listen to the answer - don’t ask if you don’t have time to hear their response.
- Use open questions; for example how, what, when etc.
- Don't stand over someone when you are having a conversation.
- Ask them what could make a difference and focus on the practical things that you can do.
- Try to make sure you are up to speed on the organisations that may be able to help, including the Charity, and signpost - but give the person time to talk first.
- Make sure that you are both clear about who needs to be told what and what if any record will be kept of the conversation.
Sometimes people fear that adjustments for people with mental health issues may impact on the rest of the team or build resentment. This may be partly because mental health issues cannot be seen.
Many people with mental health issues will be covered by the same legislation as those with physical disabilities. It is therefore a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments.
These do not need to be complicated or impact on others. Often the person will be able to tell you what would make a difference for them.
For information about reasonable adjustments, click here.
This link to a document from the Equality and Human Rights Commission about workplace adjustments is relevant to England, Wales and Scotland.
In Northern Ireland the Welfare Service team can advise on this.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has identified the most common causes of work-related stress:
- Role uncertainty
- Lack of control
- Lack of manager support
- Lack of peer support
For customer facing roles you can also include dealing with aggression as a common stressor.
What can you do to mitigate the impact of some of these stressors on your staff?
In supporting a member of staff with a mental health issue, you don’t have to do everything. There are lots of organisations you can signpost them to:
- The Charity for Civil Servants – familiarise yourself with what we do and ask us if you are not sure.
- Employee Assistance Provider / Welfare – make sure you have information about how to access these services and what is available.
- Occupational Health – make sure you know how OH can support you and your employees.
- Health services – for example the GP or other health professional the person is involved with.
- Access to Work – You may be eligible for an Access to Work grant which can pay for practical assistance for someone with a disability or mental health condition to get a job or stay in work. There is more information here including about Northern Ireland which has a different system.
- Mental Health First Aiders – staff qualified as mental health first aiders can be a useful source of support for your staff member, especially at times of crisis.
Mental Health First Aid is a two-day course. It teaches how to recognise the symptoms of mental ill-health, provide initial help and guide the person towards appropriate professional help.
Many workplaces are committed to training staff to become mental health first aiders. They recognise the importance of making support available and of raising awareness about mental health across the workforce.
We run a limited number of Mental Health First Aid courses in conjunction with Civil Service Local. Check out the blog and search for Mental Health First Aid to find out the dates of courses near you.
For more information about Mental Health First Aid and to find out about other courses in your region, these are your contacts:
- Mental Health First Aid England
- Mental Health First Aid Wales
- Scotland’s Mental Health First Aid
- Mental Health First Aid Northern Ireland
Presentations and talks
We are sometimes able to visit offices to run basic sessions about issues such as mental health awareness and stress management. In the future we will also be developing webinars on similar subjects. Our resources are limited but do contact us to see what is available.
We also have a team of trained volunteers who are able to do talks about the Charity's services.
We are always pleased to be represented at events such as wellbeing days. If we are able to, we will identify a volunteer to staff a stand but otherwise, we can always send materials to ensure that the people who need our services are able to access them.