“If you have a mental health issue you are probably concerned about the best way to raise the issue with your manager. It may not be easy to introduce the subject and, if you are experiencing stress, anxiety, depression or another mental health condition, it is natural to be anxious about the reaction you may receive.
“But your manager may have more insight and knowledge than you expect. They may have experienced it themselves, or may be close to someone who has.
“However, you may feel that your line manager is not the right person to talk to, and in this situation, you should find an alternative colleague to speak to such as a more senior manager, someone in Human Resources, Health and Wellbeing, a union representative, a trusted colleague or an independent service.
If you are unsure about the best way to broach the subject, you could provide your manager with information about your mental health condition. Charities and organisations such as Mindful Employer have tools to help you prepare to start the conversation.
Providing support as a manager
“As a manager you may be concerned about a member of your team, and, if you are, you need to start the conversation early.
“There is no set pattern of behaviour associated with experiencing poor mental health, but key things you may have noticed are changes in their usual behaviour or their physical appearance.
You should choose to have the conversation where the employee feels comfortable and the conversation can’t be overheard, disturbed or interrupted. Regular one-to-ones or informal chats can provide opportunities to talk.
“Try to allow your team member to express their concerns in their own way. Make sure you listen to what they are saying and remain non-judgemental, enabling them to feel more able to talk to you and making it easier for you to offer any support that is required. Reassure them that their personal information is confidential, but always be clear that you may need to seek advice from Health and Wellbeing, Occupational Health or Human Resources if further support is required.
Conversations about mental health may evoke strong emotions and your team member may become distressed. If this happens, try not to feel intimidated – strong emotions are a natural part of life.
“On the other hand, do not ignore signs of extreme distress and if the employee begins talking about harming themselves or others then don’t hesitate to call upon expert health advice.
“If your employee is reluctant to talk about their mental health condition, you need to reassure them that your door is always open. Finally, make them aware about the many services that are available to help.”
Support services on offer
There are a variety of services available to help staff across the University.
A range of online self-help tools, guidance and links to NHS services, and national and local charities are available on the Health, Safety and Risk SharePoint site. These can help staff manage their mental health and give managers advice on how to support their team. Wellbeing Risk Assessment training for line managers is also available on request. Contact HStraining@soton.ac.uk for further information.
This 24-hour service provides all employees with year-round access to telephone counselling. It is completely confidential, free of charge and is not restricted to problems connected with work. It is separate to the University and offers complementary online support.
0800 316 9337
The University is committed to fostering an environment for staff where work-life balance is achieved, where individuals can achieve the best arrangement between their personal and career objectives, while continuing to satisfy business needs. This includes flexible working, career breaks, job share, childcare and compassionate leave.
Mental Wellbeing intranet pages
Employee Assistance Programme