How to Help Employees Feel Comfortable Seeking Mental Health Support
Having employee mental health support in place is one thing; making sure your people feel comfortable enough to use it is another.
The stigma surrounding mental health at work has long been a sticking point when it comes to improving workplace wellbeing. Employees, particularly in a corporate environment, often worry about being seen as weak – making them reluctant to show vulnerability, and reticent to admit when they need help.
To stand any real chance of improving and fully supporting the mental health of your people, then eliminating that sense of stigma is essential. If you’re not sure where to start, take a look at our top tips for challenging the stigma around mental health at work.
5 tips for encouraging employees to seek mental health support when they need it
1. Communicate leadership approval
If you want your people to know it’s okay not to be okay, delivery is crucial. You’re giving the message that your workplace supports employee wellbeing and prioritises mental health, but if this is a cultural change for your company, people will need to see that the message is authentic. Having employees at all levels of seniority talk openly about mental health is the goal, but before you can convince people that showing vulnerability is not just okay, but welcomed, the message must come from a level of authority. A relatable, respected person in leadership – someone people feel they can trust – is the ideal.
2. Empower staff to support one another
Having a colleague to lean on, who will listen without judgement and signpost to support, is incredibly valuable. Providing additional training to create a network of mental health ambassadors within your organisation can really help break the stigma by normalising the conversation. It’s also important that these ambassadors are from a diverse range of backgrounds so that all employees can find someone they can relate to. To hear more about building a network watch our webinar with MediaCom’s Nancy Lengthorn who talks to us about the practical steps they took to achieve this here.
3. Show your ongoing commitment through constant campaigning
Changing company culture calls for real commitment: a one-off event or email just isn’t going to cut it. This is a permanent campaign, and it has to be based on human realities; people who’ve experienced mental health stigma in the past need to see an active demonstration of your values, every day. Your campaign needs to draw out active inclusion by empowering people to speak up, without fear of judgement. One way of achieving this is by making mental health part of your company conversation, and repeating your message through every available means. To maintain this over time, make ‘refresher resources’ available to HR, leadership, and mental health allies – with a constant drip-feed of new information that your people can draw on for support.
4. Share lived experience
One of the most powerful ways to break down workplace mental health stigma is by sharing first-hand accounts of mental illness and mental health challenges. You can choose to bring in external speakers, but using volunteers from within your own business has an even bigger impact. It’s a good idea to gather stories from all levels of seniority and across different teams, but it’s important to start with someone from your senior leadership team (if you have a willing candidate). Sharing lived experience opens up lines of communication, makes leaders more relatable, and destigmatises conversations around mental health.
5. Be honest about working pressures
When you’re on a path to change, it naturally follows that you’ll need to untangle some bad habits along the way; habits like glorifying busyness, and failing to openly acknowledge workplace pressures. Building a culture of compassion isn’t about eliminating all stress from a job, but being honest and open about that stress. You can’t promise your employees a pressure-free working life, but you can put support systems into place, talk honestly about stress, and normalise the need for support.
Join the GBC Community for Better Workplace Mental Health
The Global Business Collaboration for Better Workplace Mental Health has been set up to support employers all over the world in creating and nurturing mentally healthy workplaces. As a community of business leaders we’re committed to sharing insights and best practice for the benefit of all.
To take your seat at the table, sign the GBC Leadership Pledge today, and help us to shape the future of workplace mental health.
Together, we can create a culture where every employee feels confident enough to seek support when they need it – allowing businesses, and their people, to thrive.