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Supporting Employees

Supporting Employees with Mental Ill-Health

How Do I Support Someone With Mental Ill Health?

First things first, remember you're not a medical expert.

It's not your job to provide counselling. There are other people to do that, the person's GP for example.

As a manager your role is to think about how you respond to the situation. The first and most important thing you need to do is talk. It's good to talk!

So take a look at the guidance in this section on how to handle conversations, respond to situations, and decide what support you can give.

It is also worth remembering you don’t have to manage this alone. There are organisations who can help you manage mental health effectively and positively in the workplace through training and consultancy or by working one on one with your staff.

It's Good To Talk

Remember, it will probably have been hard for the person concerned to tell you what's going on for them.

With all the stigma that still surrounds mental ill health that's understandable isn't it? They will probably have worried about how you'd react, whether it would damage their career prospects and whether they could trust you with something so deeply personal.

Yet good open and honest conversations are just what's needed.


So, what's the best way to manage a conversation? Here are some simple tips.




Have a conversation in a neutral and private space, not your office.

Don't attempt to initiate a conversation in front of everyone.

Make sure there are no interruptions. Switch your mobile phone off.

Don't initiate a conversation if you've got another appointment looming.

Be focused. You only need information that will help you achieve the goal of supporting your employee.

Don't attempt to diagnose. Remember you're not a doctor or a qualified counsellor.

Ask open non-controlling questions. For example, "I was wondering how you were doing?"

Don't ask questions that could create pressure like "What is wrong with you then?" or "Are you stressed or something?"

Use neutral language for example, "you seem very low today".

Don't use medical language linked to illnesses like "you seem depressed" unless the employee uses it.

Always allow the person time to answer

Don't push for an answer. Be patient. And don't rush in with another question. Without listening to the answer you've been given.

Try and put yourself in the other person's shoes and see things from their position.

Don't tell the person what to do.

Make arrangements for a follow up meeting to review the situation.

Don't leave things up in the air


Download this checklist (pdf download - 62KB) to take into the meeting with you if that would help.

These guidelines will help in most situations. However, there may be special circumstances where you need a bit more help.

Finally, and this is really important, always think about confidentiality. Once an employee has told you about their situation it is vital that you discuss and agree with them exactly who else, if anyone, might need to know, and what information they need to be provided with.