Supporting mental health in the workplace

11th November 2019

A big part of last week was working with a lovely bunch of managers, helping them to find ways to handle conversations with team members when mental health issues are mentioned. The general consensus was that for most people, knowing what to say and a fear of ‘saying the wrong thing’ really gets in the way and clouds our judgment when it comes to these types of conversation.

If as the data shows, 1 in 4 of us will experience mental health issues in our lives, it’s something that managers need to be able to handle. Not only do managers need to create the type of team climate that enables people to feel safe enough to open up. Managers also need to be able to ‘stay with’ a conversation even when heavy or sensitive topics emerge. No mean feat if you ask me!!

What do people need from us if they’re struggling with something? First and foremost, what they need is care, compassion and to be heard and acknowledged. In short, they need us to ‘be human’ first, manager/boss second. 

In the session I mentioned above we used the term ‘human first’ as shorthand for remembering that what others probably need is;

  • Time to talk – often tough when we’re busy, stretch and time poor
  • To be listened to
  • To be able to share as much or as little as they need
  • To know that we care about them.

Specifically, being human probably means we need to be better able to;

  • Listen hard – anything less than 100% attention won’t cut it
  • Open up – empathy is a two-way street
  • Staying curious about how they see things & their frame of reference
  • Do something to acknowledge their perspective and feelings – and that doesn’t mean solutionising!

More often than not we can’t fix people’s problems, but we CAN be with them in their struggles and be ready to sign post where they can get additional help and support. So, make sure you know what your organisation offers in terms of EAP’s etc, so that you can talk to people about where they can seek additional help.

It can be mentally and emotionally draining when we are working with people who are struggling. In addition to making sure to show compassion and care for them. Self care and self compassion are vital if we too want to look after our own mental health! But that’s a whole different topic!

#gillparkin #coaching #counselling #psychotherapy #innercritic