4 Steps to Equip Managers to Deal with Mental Health

Katie Harrower |


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Have the managers within your company ever been asked to handle challenging behaviour from employees, including absences, productivity declines and low engagement, which has a basis in mental illness?

Have your managers ever expressed difficulty in dealing with these situations successfully?

Despite the fact that 77 percent of employees have experienced poor mental health, and despite 76 percent of managers believing that mental health is their responsibility, very few seem to be equipped to deal with mental ill-health in an understanding, accepting manner.

Business in the Community (BitC) released a study suggesting that only 22 percent of managers feel they have had sufficient training to have effective mental health conversations – a surprisingly low figure, especially as awareness of mental health issues is becoming a key focus in the world of work.

The study also suggests that only 4 percent would be likely to ask HR for help with their mental health. That leaves a pretty huge gap between employees and HR – the people best equipped to handle the situation.

In that gap lies your managers, and they need to fill it to encourage employees to share their issues and develop trust. Perhaps the reason that so few employees approach management for help is because they know, as well as we do, that their manager isn’t going to deal with it appropriately.

Why is successful handling of mental health so important?

The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development places the cost of the effects of mental illness at £70 billion a year – this includes loss in productivity, costs to the NHS, and benefits.

On top of the up-front costs, there are legal issues which can arise from poor handling of mental health issues by managers, as well as a loss of company reputation, driving away new talent from your open positions.

             1.      Raise awareness

'To increase confidence - by investing in mental 
health awareness training for line managers and other staff' -
Recommendation for employers from MINDFUL EMPLOYER Evaluation 

Line managers can’t deliver successful handling of mental health conversations if they don’t understand it – they need to have a strong background of information on both mental health at work, and mental health outside of work.

Managers aren’t the only ones who need this information, though – by sharing it with all employees, you cultivate an environment of acceptance & understanding which will encourage your staff to share their issues more openly.

The following resources can provide you with useful information on mental health that you can send to your line managers, as compulsory or optional reading, whatever works best for you:

Some of the above research papers are very long and heavyweight, so for a shorter overview with key highlights about mental health at work to send to your managers, read our factsheet:

           2.      Get directors on board

Increasing awareness and driving actions in the mental health field will be a struggle if all levels of staff aren’t on board with the decisions – there will likely be some costs involved, and you may need director approval for the campaign.

What do senior directors care about, first and foremost? They want to know how your mental health improvements will benefit – or deplete from – the bottom line.

This guide provided by Centre for Mental Health provides you with an in-depth business case, outlining costs and benefits, which you can use to form the basis of your own business case to present to directors or senior executives.

         3.      Provide in-depth training

The best way to ensure all managers within your organisation are providing the best support for employees suffering from mental illness is to provide them with training – this will instill confidence in both them and your employees, cultivating a level of trust which otherwise might be absent.

  • MH Mediate – provides both online and in-person training and consulting for managers on how to have mental health conversations at work.
  • Mindful Employer – provides awareness training and workshops, which can be delivered at your premises, or as part of a Team Day.
  • Mind Matters Training – provides a 1-day course on ‘Mediation Skills in the Workplace’, very helpful for management teams who wish to increase their abilities to have mental health conversations, and restore and maintain employee relationships. Both in-house and external training options.

         4.      Measure the results

This is possibly the most important step – implementing training and raising awareness can be a costly task without measurable results.

What might these measurable results look like? Asking your employees to take part in a survey at the end of the course, outlining how they feel about sharing mental health issues with management, could be a good way to measure the success of your mental health campaign. A separate survey for managers would be another great way to find out where the improvements have been achieved – do they feel better equipped to deal with employee mental wellbeing? Will their future mental health conversations be more informed and therefore more understanding?

By implementing these 4 steps your organisation will be on the way to higher productivity and better workplace satisfaction from your employees, encouraging a positive environment that cultivates trust and encourages company loyalty; all positives which can be measured in the long-term.

Did you find this article useful? Youmanage HR offers software to help you streamline your HR processes and ensure compliance within your company. We also write articles on HR, leadership, employee engagement, health & well-being and much more. Start a free trial of Youmanageget in touch to ask questions, or check out our blog to help you to deliver HR best practice in your business.

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Katie is the Marketing Executive here at Youmanage. Within the wider team, she is responsible for managing all aspects of marketing communications, including content and digital strategy, social media, website traffic, prospective client experience and the overall satisfaction of existing Youmanage users.