How to Talk About Mental Health at Work

Posted by Tilt Recruitment on February 25th, 2022

How to Talk About Mental Health at Work

Posted by Tilt Recruitment on February 25, 2022

The vast majority of people–80%, in fact–will suffer from a diagnosable mental illness or condition in their lifetime. Some have chronic mental illness that they’ve had to manage since childhood, others will struggle to cope with a trauma such as a physical injury or a bereavement. Whatever the cause, it will affect every area of the person’s life.

In other words, mental illness is normal, and we shouldn’t be ashamed of it.

This is easy to say–but at work, we obviously value productivity and emotional stability, making it harder for people to be open when they’re going through difficult times. It’s the task of HR departments to balance the need for group harmony and steady output with steadfast compassion and support for anyone who’s not in a good place

One of the most important ways to do that is to simply talk about mental illness–which 62% of employees say they want leadership to do. And it’s worth considering that even those who said they don’t may be mainly worried about awkwardness and getting overly personal, which a general running conversation about mental health doesn’t necessarily need to do.

Stigma around mental illness is powerful in our culture, and especially in our office culture; just bringing the subject up in meetings or newsletters can go a long way. This both helps with stigma and with encouraging employees to get mental health support. The evidence that therapy helps people is strong, and yet over half of all mentally ill people won’t seek it out.

Because mental illness is so common, a company with a narrowminded attitude towards it can shoot itself in the foot. If employees don’t feel supported when they’re under stress, they’re more likely to burn out or leave for another job–especially in the current climate.

Another word about combating stigma: it’s important to normalize the support needs of less common or more highly stigmatised mental health issues. Can your office add quiet rooms? Can your space accommodate a trained service animal? Are managers willing to listen when employees open up about sounds or features of the environment that trigger post-traumatic or OCD symptoms, and communicate with them and their therapist or psychiatrist to come to a solution? If the answers are yes, don’t be shy about saying so. You never know what talent you might open your door to.

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