How to support workers struggling with their mental health in your business

Spot warning signs of poor mental health and support staff to speak up


Step 1: How to spot early warning signs

The earlier people get help, the faster they will get better. How you respond can make a huge difference in your employee's wellbeing.

Spotting the signs of poor mental health can be tricky. A good first step is to consider changes in people's behaviours, attitudes and even the way they speak.

The 'Warning signs' checklist can help you notice these changes.

Step 2: Learn what to say

We all value our privacy and respect the privacy of others. You might be telling yourself 'it's none of my business' or 'they won't want to talk to me about it anyway'. It's okay to be unsure or a little embarrassed, but it's better to start a conversation than to ignore a feeling that something is not quite right.

Having someone show they care can make all the difference for someone who is feeling overwhelmed or distressed. Showing someone who is struggling that you care can make all the difference. Remember though, even when you do make the first move, there's no guarantee they'll be ready to talk. Once they know someone cares, they might be ready next time you ask.

Planning your conversation

There are three simple steps in a supportive conversation. These are:

  1. Be ready
  2. Pick your moment
  3. Follow up

These guidelines can help you reach out in the most helpful way:

  • Be respectful and don't judge. Not everyone is comfortable speaking about their personal problems or health.
  • Follow-up is important. Some people take time to think about how to answer questions about how they are.
  • Start the conversation at the right time. One-on-one informal conversations are best, perhaps at the end of their shift or day and in a comfortable place at work.
  • Start with open-ended questions that only need a yes or no answer.
  • Protect privacy. Check what their wishes are about talking about their situation. If you are worried about the person's safety, bring it up. You can always encourage them to seek professional health advice.
  • Talk about possible next steps. Encourage them to look into the resources available at work and to see GP or counsellor.

Kasperczyk, R and Cotton, P, 2018

Step 3: Share information with your staff on how to offer and provide help

Sharing mental health information lets people know that it is okay to ask for help. Keep posters and brochures handy so co-workers can keep the conversation going.

Download and print these resources for your workplace.

Step 4: Consider mental health training and mental health first aid

There are many face-to-face and online training programs to help understand mental health at work. These can be found on Beyond Blue’s website.

One other useful program is Mental Health First Aid. This teaches you how to help someone struggling until they can get professional help.

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Disclaimer: The WorkWell Toolkit provides general information only. Please consider your specific circumstances, needs and seek appropriate professional advice.