Why you are not supporting your staff’s mental health and what you can do about it

David has been your colleague for almost eight years now and has consistently worked hard, giving 100%. He’s valued, reliable and trusted. Yet since last September, he’s been making minor mistakes, missing deadlines and is argumentative. You feel that he’s no longer pulling his weight, is moody and avoids conversation. In your safety critical industry, he is becoming a liability.

As his line manager, would you be annoyed or concerned?

Would you feel the need to reprimand his new unreliability?

Would you know how best to approach David to challenge his new behaviour?

What would you do?

Supporting your staff's mental health in the workplace

Line managers are in a position of knowing their team better than anyone. Therefore, they are ideally placed to spot early warning signs that someone is struggling with their mental health and becoming unwell.

Yet, in order to spot these changes and then take the time to consider that staff aren’t coping as they normally would, you need to be aware of the warning signs. Some signs aren’t obvious as a warning that there is a struggle with their mental health. For example, a normally punctual employee might be turning up late, or even coming to work much earlier and leaving later. Perhaps they are having frequent headaches or being louder and more exuberant than normal. Would you recognise these early warning signs that could point to struggles with mental health? On top of that, often people aren’t aware that their own behaviour is changing and need the support of someone else to help them understand this and seek the help they deserve.

Therefore, it is important to know what to look out for and also how best to approach someone and support them. Learning these skills is part of the Mental Health First Aid and Mental Health Awareness courses.

Through my mental health training courses, I have been helping organisations to identify the early warning signs of their staff developing poor mental health for the last two years and I’ve seen some amazing transformations along the way. 

Although every organisation is unique, I’ve noticed that there are a few common reasons many people don’t receive mental health support in the workplace..

In this article, I’ve broken down a few reasons why you aren’t yet equipped with the knowledge to apply this support and also, what you can do to fix this. 


1.You don’t have a step-by-step plan

When it comes to Mental Health support in the workplace, you need to have a plan. If you don’t know what you’re doing ahead of time, it’s difficult to stick to it and get the results you need in order to give the support a colleague deserves.

Creating your own step-by-step plan will also help you know how to approach staff, give them the support and information they need, making it easier for you to know that your advice is right and relevant.

What you can do to fix this

Spend some time creating an action plan for your mental health strategy in your workplace. You are likely to have an existing strategy for physical health and health & safety, so use this as your guide. Pin it up on your wall, staff noticeboard or use an app to keep your plan easily accessible. Try to stick to it as much as possible to keep you on the right track and to be consistent when supporting someone in your organisation.

MHFA England have created a free downloadable Line Managers Resource booklet which is packed full of tips and information that will help with this. You can download it here.

2.You’re following the wrong advice

When it comes to mental health, there’s a lot of rubbish, outdated advice and opinions out there which can lead to confusion about the facts. Things like it’s not important, it’s not an employer’s problem or it’s not relevant at work. I don’t blame you if you’re following this advice but if you do follow it, you will struggle to see results in the wellbeing and productivity of your team. Mental health is something we all have and it is as important as our physical health. In fact the two are constantly linked and this applies to our work life as well as our home life.

What you can do to fix this

There is some great advice on the NHS website that can help you to begin to understand about the importance of wellbeing and mental health. This is fact based, professional information that explains the importance of our mental health in order to function productively in our lives, including work.

The more we can have open conversations and arm ourselves with knowledge surrounding our mental health, the more we can normalise raising the subject without fear of judgement. 

You can find lots more information by reading one of my blog posts, How to build a mentally healthy workplace, that has useful advice about creating your workplace strategy for mental health and how to help prevent the likelihood of problems arising. As a nation, we are understanding more about the importance of mental health and ending the stigma that surrounds this topic.

3.You don’t want to spend money on training.

Understandably, all outgoings need to be justified in business and additional training courses cost money. When you have a budget to consider, decisions must be made as to which expenditures are most important. Why add to your costs by investing in a new training programme that you haven’t ‘needed’ before?

What you can do to fix this

Simply put, when you are considering mental health training, it’s important to take into account the following: How much does it cost to recruit and train just one member of staff? Investing in training that proactively supports the health of your staff is money well spent if it prevents just one person from having to leave their job or be on long term sick leave due to mental health.

During a training consultation recently, the HR manager informed me that the biggest reason for staff absence in their company was mental health related. Their vision is to build a network of Mental Health First Aiders to help identify early warning signs and encourage conversations. They have learnt that early intervention is key in preventing matters from escalating. They have understood the importance of mental health and wellbeing support in order for their staff to function at their best and work safely and productively. 

When it comes to supporting the mental health of your staff, what now?

I’m sure after reading this article you can see why you’re not always getting the result you want. Why one of the main causes of staff absence at your organisation is likely to be related to mental health and stress. Why you are unsure about how you can support your valued staff in terms of their mental health. Hopefully, now you have some guidance on what you can start to do to fix this.

For more information about the mental health courses I deliver, click here.

If you need some more tailored advice on how to begin to make positive changes through Mental Health training in your organisation, then contact me and let’s spend some time looking at your training needs and plan a schedule that works for you.