Article: What should you do when an employee discloses a mental health condition?

Employee Relations

What should you do when an employee discloses a mental health condition?

It can be difficult for employees to disclose sensitive information such as their mental health condition. Here we list down what you should do in case it happens.
What should you do when an employee discloses a mental health condition?

A lot of organisations today have adopted policies, programs, and measures to help people struggling with their mental health but having a personal encounter with a staff who’s dealing with a mental health condition can put any manager in a tight spot. 

Mental health has always been among the top concerns of workers during the pandemic as quarantine restrictions triggered more feelings of isolations for people who are already suffering conditions like depression and anxiety.

While it can be a little sensitive to engage in conversations about mental health, especially when it’s an employee who personally chose to disclose his or her condition to you, it can also be a great opportunity to show that you and the organisations do care for the people.

To help you get ready for situations like this, here are some steps you can take to become a supportive manager for your people who may be struggling because of some mental health condition.

Thank the employee for sharing

If a someone discloses his mental health condition to you, the first thing you must understand is that it was never an easy decision because doing so means risking his own job.

Second, it’s a call for help, and the person trusts you enough to seek your support as he tries to rise from his sullen situation.

Given these facts, it is important that you first thank that person for taking a brave step towards the path of healing. 

Show him that you understand how hard it is to disclose a sensitive condition and acknowledge the importance of having that personal conversation. 

Listen with an open heart

Depending on the mental health condition, you will need to be prepared to listen to all the things that the employee will share. 

And you should not just listen, you need to listen with an open heart, without judgments, and without knee-jerk reactions.

Let the person speak and share all the things he wants to share and ask questions that would clarify what he may mean with his words.

The conversation you’ll have with that employee should be a safe space for him to really express all the emotions he needs to express. 

Express your desire to help

After listening and thanking the employee for sharing his mental health condition with you, tell him that you want to do your part to help him, but never overpromise.

First, you are not a psychiatrist or a psychologist to help him cope with his condition. But as a manager, you can always do the little things, like being that person who can take the time to listen.

It is normal if you do not always have the solutions readily available, and just expressing your desire to help can mean a lot. 

Keep the convo confidential

Whatever happens, keep the details of your conversation with that employee confidential because all the trust the staff gave you hinges on this.

Even when trying to seek help from key people in the organisation, never divulge the identity of the employee unless really necessary. 

You can always discuss the situation with some human resource leader without telling them who the employee is. 

Let the employee speak out publicly about his condition when he is ready. Despite the trust you have, you are never in the position to divulge his mental health status.

List down things you can do

After the conversation, be proactive and see what you can do to make the workplace a safer place for that employee. 

For example, you can always be flexible when it comes to the schedule and deadlines, or you can give that employee some time off. 

You can even go above and beyond by looking for contact numbers of affordable consultations with psychiatrists or psychologists, if an in-house one is not available. 

Look for an expert’s help

In cases like this, it is important that you reach out to the human resource department to collaborate on some structural solutions.

The HR division is in the position to make more impactful steps that can help the employee start his path towards healing.

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Topics: Employee Relations, Culture, #Wellbeing

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