Supporting employees with mental ill health doesn’t need to be complicated.
When supporting employee mental ill health, the aim is to enable them to feel able to be open about their health so that you can together identify the best way to provide support, so they can work productively and effectively. This benefits both them and the business.
A personal story
I wanted to share a personal story relating to one of my daughters – with her permission, to demonstrate that supporting employees who have a diagnosis of a mental illness doesn’t need to be complicated or need much resource. She has been unwell with PTSD and acute anxiety and has not been well enough to work for most of this year. It has been a very tough period for her, and recovery can feel a very long and slow process.
Lack of understanding by employers
As she has been trying to return to work on a part time basis it has been interesting to see the way different potential employers respond when she is open about her mental health. I mean interesting from a dispassionate perspective, not the mum perspective which is a very different emotional reaction! However, what I wanted to share is a positive experience she has just had with her new employer. She was open about her mental health in the interview and they asked a few questions not intrusively but with empathy.
A supportive conversation
When she was offered the role, the manager asked to meet up with her because she wanted to understand how to best provide support when she started work. They met up off site over a coffee so the environment felt comfortable and she basically asked three questions:
- What are your triggers?
- How would we know you were finding things difficult?
- What can we do to make starting your job as easy as possible for you?
She really listened to the answers, in all the ways I cover in my training:
- She responded in a non-judgemental way
- She clarified things she didn’t understand
- She worked with my daughter to create a plan – so she felt in control.
My daughter said she was still very anxious and finding it difficult to breathe in the meeting but is now feeling more comfortable about starting her new job. This will be at her pace in a way that is manageable for her.
So, thank you to the manager for recognising the importance of having this conversation and for carrying it out in such a supportive way.
I realise this may not be the end of the story as recovery is not a smooth process, but we are feeling hopeful that someone understands that she wants to work, she is looking forward to working, but that it may not always be easy for her.
I am writing this to demonstrate that whilst we want mental health to be part of the wellbeing strategy owned at senior level, it is also the individual behaviours of people that will bring about change and make the difference.
Contact us for details
Protea Solutions provides a range of training options to support employee mental health including Mental Health First Aid courses accredited by MHFA England. These are offered as both public open courses and run within organisations. Contact us to find out how we can help you support your employees or contact us if you would like to find out more information and join our next MHFA Networking and Support Group.
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