How to support an employee with mental health struggles.
This is a situation that I’ve been on both ends of, as an employee struggling with anxiety, and as a manager helping support employees with mental health struggles. Using these experiences, here’s what helped me, and what I did that helped others.
It’s easy to do, but few do it well.
The simplest but arguably most important thing to do, communicate. This applies to both parties, the employer and the employee, however, throw mental health into the mix and ultimately this step may be down to just the employer. When someone is struggling with their mental health it can be difficult for them to communicate and speak up about how they’re feeling. Whilst society has made massive progress with mental health awareness, it’s still got a long way to go. I believe the employer has to lay down the foundations, and state their intentions when it comes to supporting their employees mental health.
A question as simple as “How are you feeling today?” can go a long way to making someone feel comfortable at their workplace, but it shouldn’t be a passing comment. It’s a question that you should want to know the real answer to, so say it genuinely, and with intend.
Make yourself available.
Most workplaces have high-pressure situations from time to time, it’s only normal. These are one of the moments that can become particularly overwhelming if someone is struggling with their mental health. Ultimately the best thing you can do to help them is to make yourself available. Employees with rocky mental health don’t want you to do their job for them, but knowing that they’ve got a support pillar to lean on can make a massive difference, especially during intense situations.
Extra brownie points to those employers that are having a day off and pro-actively making themselves available by sending their employees a text, simply letting them know that you’re there is they need anything.
If an employee looks like they’re getting overwhelmed, they probably are. Allow them to take 5, just to breath and relax. It may not be ideal for business, but it’s not ideal for your employee either. It’s much better to nip it in the bud with these things. Ultimately, it’s going to affect business more if an employee is too overwhelmed to get the job done properly.
I thought this one was obvious, but based on previous experience, apparently it’s not. This is something that applies to employers, employees, and everyone else. Creating a culture of ownership is one of the best ways that i’ve seen companies boost general moral and work ethic, let alone create a supportive environment for people with mental health struggles.