Supporting Employees with Mental Health Issues

There has been a greater focus on mental health in general, over the last few years. Whether it’s the workplace, social media or just on an individual level, the conversation has moved towards greater visibility and acceptance. This is partly due to the mental health crisis that we are currently facing. Due to the pressures of modern life and the unique aspects of social media, more people are suffering than ever before. This was the case before the pandemic and of course, Covid has only exacerbated the problem, with lockdowns, isolation, money troubles and existential dread pushing many people to breaking point.

Considering the rising problem of mental health issues, it’s never been more important for businesses to support their employees; but what’s the best way to approach this?


Before you consider what you should do for your employees, you should first ascertain what you are expected to do, according to law. Employers have a duty of care for their employees, which basically means they must create a safe working environment, protect against discrimination and carry out risk assessments. This duty of care includes the mental health of workers and therefore aspects such as working hours, stress, bullying etc., should all be considered. It’s also worth noting that mental health issues can be considered a disability under the law, in specific circumstances. At this point, the employer would also need to safeguard against discrimination.


Although many more of us are talking about mental health, there is still a stigma surrounding the issue. So much so that many employees may be ashamed to talk about their mental health in the workplace. It’s therefore important that managers create a safe, welcoming and understanding environment, in which discussion is encouraged. The easiest way to create a supportive environment is by being open and encouraging your workers to share any problems they may have. Try to ensure that your employees are aware that mental health is just as important as physical health and both will be taken seriously.


Regular meetings with employees will allow for continual communication and you’re more likely to spot any potential issues. These can include one-on-one meetings, group meetings or even better, a mixture of the two. Managers should use this time to encourage staff to talk about any problems they may have as well as signposting resources which are available to them. Even if the meeting is just a casual chat, this can be helpful in just providing a pressure release. Remember, you should be communicating with your employees regularly- including those who work remotely.


There are many tools available to help with mental health issues and these should be identified and made available for any workers who may need them. Of course, there are a plethora of external resources, such as the NHS, charitable organisations such as Mind or even just a friendly ear. However, businesses also need to think about internal resources. These will differ according to company but will often include HR, occupational health or an employee assistance team. Mangers may even go further and train mental health first aiders- who are more likely to identify and provide help with problems earlier.


When it comes to looking after your staff, particularly with mental health issues, businesses need to “put their money where their mouth is”. Protecting staff can often mean time off, flexible working, reduced hours and these are sacrifices that managers need to make. Employees who are happy, healthy and have a good work/home life balance are more likely to work harder and have more loyalty. Therefore, it’s beneficial for businesses to invest in their staff in the short term, in order to guarantee a better long-term outlook.

The conversation on mental health is not going away and companies who aren’t doing all they can to protect their employees are going to fall by the wayside unless they make changes.