UK: Time To Talk? Time To Listen Too

Last Updated: 20 February 2019
Article by Hannah Field

Last week it would have been difficult to miss the statistics: mental health affects 1 in 4 of us. In reality, it affects far more indirectly. Many people will have been affected by the mental health of a colleague, a friend or a family member. In addition, anyone with experience of mental health problems will know that conditions such as anxiety and depression affect everyone differently. What helps one person won't necessarily be an appropriate form of support for another.

The prominence of Time to Talk Day in the news, on social media and perhaps in your workplace shows that attitudes towards mental health are changing. The mental health campaign "Time to Change" seeks to end the stigma that surrounds mental health, and the impact of this movement is invaluable, but to an individual with depression or anxiety, is being told it's ok to have a mental health problem necessarily enough to make them believe it's ok? Enough to make them believe they will be taken seriously and heard? Talking about mental health is an excellent start, but listening to those who struggle with it is just as important.

It is hard to describe how difficult it is for somebody struggling with depression to admit that to another person. It's a cruel twist of fate that one of the common side effects of depression is an overwhelming sense of shame in having that condition in the first place. How do you admit that to somebody? Shoe on the other foot, how do you ask somebody to confide in you about something so personal? Even closest friends and family, let alone your employer?

I believe the key is trust. An employee is more likely to discuss matters around mental health if they have trust that their employer will listen and support them on a practical level. Make mental health a priority at all levels of the business, let employees know how they can speak to somebody in the business on a strictly confidential basis and reassure them that whatever the issue, they will be supported. The more employers can do to create a culture of trust and support around mental health, the more employees will feel comfortable disclosing those issues and reaching out for support. But trust is a broader issue than just mental health, so if you let your employee down in other respects, their willingness to trust you to handle their health issues appropriately will still be damaged.

Sometimes, just knowing that your employer is aware of what you are going through and that it is okay, makes a huge difference. It provides reassurance that when you arrive at work, no matter what happens or what obstacles you might face during the day, it's going to be fine because you will be supported. Some employees may be reluctant to let their colleagues know what is going on, but if they feel comfortable confiding in somebody they work closely with or who supervises them, the sense of support it provides can be invaluable.

Everyone is affected by mental health problems differently, but here are a couple of workplace pointers I would suggest:

DO:

  • Highlight the importance of mental wellbeing and how your employees can look after their mental health inside and outside of work.
  • Encourage all employees to be aware of their colleagues' mental wellbeing. People who work together on a daily basis may notice a struggling colleague more quickly than those at a management or senior level. This doesn't mean getting them to report tiny changes in behaviour or anything quite so Nineteen Eighty-Four, just encouraging employees to look out for each other and ask those three important words: "How are you?"
  • Let employees know how they can talk to somebody in the business on a confidential basis about anything that might be affecting their mental wellbeing.
  • Take the time to listen to employees who come forward to discuss their mental health issues. No individual experiences a mental health problem in the same way.
  • Tailor any support plan to the individual employee. Ask them what support might help them and discuss a way to put that into practice. If an employee struggles to come to work on a Monday, discuss options for them to work from home on that day. If leaving the house in the morning at rush hour is difficult, consider whether you can temporarily change their working pattern so they can arrive and leave outside peak travel times.
  • Discuss what steps employees are taking outside work to support their recovery. These steps will likely support their recovery in the workplace. If somebody is struggling to come to work because they are having trouble sleeping, talk to them about options which would help with that. Do they normally enjoy going for a run or to the gym? Doing these activities in the morning might support their recovery and help them get halfway to the office or avoid rush hour. You don't need to be an expert on self-help, but just asking the question can both get an employee thinking about steps they can take and demonstrate a genuine interest in their wellbeing.
  • Encourage the employee to speak to their GP if they haven't already. It's important that anyone with a mental health problem has access to professional support to aid their recovery.
  • Be patient and understanding. Recovery is two steps forward and one step back. There are good days and bad days, and on those bad days it's more important than ever to reassure your employees that they are still supported.

DON'T:

  • Assume that just because somebody looks perfectly fine from the outside, they feel fine on the inside. Some mental health conditions can have physical manifestations, but others don't. Some people who have had depression or anxiety for several years are adept at masking their feelings. There are many people with depression or anxiety who can, for the most part, function at a very high level. "You seem fine" can shut down a conversation about mental health for good.
  • Make any discussion a one-off. If an employee discloses a mental health issue and comes to you for support, stay engaged with them and support them throughout their recovery. Schedule regular meetings with the employee and keep an eye on how they are doing. If they are absent, drop them an email to ask if they would like to have a call with you or whether there is any support they need.
  • Be unreliable. Managing an employee with poor mental health can be onerous, but to maintain trust with an individual who is disclosing such a personal matter it is important to be reliable. If you are meeting with them, don't be late. If you say you will put a support plan in place and confirm by a certain time, make sure you do that.
  • Assume that because an employee has a mental health problem, they need or want time off work. Some people may need time off work to rest and recover, but for others being at work is extremely beneficial for recovery. Time off can cause feelings of guilt, isolation, lack of motivation and loneliness. Time spent at work in a supportive environment means interaction, motivation, a sense of accomplishment, purpose, a positive distraction and integration into something bigger than themselves.
  • Related to that, assume that they will themselves be unreliable and so, for example, cannot safely be given work which is pressing or complicated or extended. Even if you think you are doing this for all the right reasons, unilaterally adjusting work types in this way merely increases their sense of isolation and anxiety.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Squire Patton Boggs LLP
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Squire Patton Boggs LLP
Related Articles
 
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions