Mental Health Foundation found that approximately 450 million people worldwide have mental health problems. It is projected that 1 in 4 people will experience it at some point in their lives, while one in 12 of whole population will have depression attack leading to mental health issue. This condition is worsened by the fact that stigma and discrimination towards people with mental illness remain intact, which becomes the reason why they are harder to recover.
Morra Aarons-Mele, founder of Women Online and The Mission List, said that mental illness could be a challenge, but it is not a weakness. Someone could help themselves when suffering from mental illness by understanding their psyche as a key to unleash their inner strength. For example, individuals can make use of their sensitivity to empathise with clients, their anxiety to be more thoughtful boss, or their need for space to forge new and interesting paths. This way, they can have better performance, engagement, employee retention, and overall well-being.
However, some individuals remain struggling to find their own place at work – or simply do not know how to cope with their mental health issues. Accordingly, as a manager or people with authority within the organisation, you should know how to help your employees who suffers from this issue.
According to Diana O-Brien and Jen Fisher at Harvard Business Review, here are 5 ways managers can do to drive more empathetic culture at work.
Pay attention to language spread in your office
Not all colleague are best at commenting something. Comments such as “He is being so bipolar this week, one minute he’s up, the next he’s down” or “She is totally schizo today” might not be a big deal or even just an exaggerated joke for some people. However, in the ears of someone with mental health challenge, they might sound like indictments or mocking. Hence, it is better to remind your employees to watch their language and make them aware of stigma on mental health in the workplace.
Rethink ‘sick days’
When an individual suffers from influenza, good manager will tell them to go home and rest. However, only few people in business would react to emotional outbursts or signs of stress, anxiety, or manic behaviour. Here, you need to get more comfortable with idea of suggesting and requesting days to focus on improving mental and physical health.
Encourage openness and honest conversation
Many employees prefer not to talk to their managers about their mental condition, thinking that they are ‘incapable’ of handling such situations. Therefore, it is important for managers to provide safe spaces for people to talk about their own challenges openly and safely. On the other hand, employees should not fear of being judged or excluded. Instead, good leaders will always provide ears to listen and mouth to advice without making harsh comments or criticism.
Nearly 70 percent respondents of a study said they did not do enough to prevent burnout. Therefore, bosses, managers, and human resource professionals should do better at helping them. By connecting and offering access to programs, resources, and education on stress management and resilience-building, managers have already helped people with mental health issue from experiencing a more serious problem.
Train other employees to notice and respond
Mental Health First Aid is a national program to increase people’s ability to recognise signs of someone who might be suffering from mental health challenge and connect them with resources they need. This is also one of best way to promote emphatic workplace culture. You should train your employees through self-learning or role plays. Provide guidance in how to listen non-judgmentally, offer reassurance, and assess risk of suicide or self-harm.