26/10/2020

Is your team suffering in silence? Four reasons why your colleagues won’t discuss their mental health with you

mental wellbeing

As a manager or business leader, many of us like to think that we’d be among the first people to recognise the tell-tale signs that one of our team members was struggling with their mental health.

Sadly, as many employees still believe that there’s a stigma attached to mental wellbeing, many people that are suffering tend to do so in silence. This may continue until they can no longer continue to do their jobs and need to take a leave of absence.

If you aren’t aware that there is a problem, you are not in a position to offer help and support. The first step to making it easier for your team to share any strugglers with you and ask for help is to recognise that there could be things which are stopping them from feeling comfortable approaching you. Here are four potential barriers that could be preventing colleagues from opening up to you.

They’re worried about their future opportunities

Forging a path to the top can be tough on mental health, and many staff members who have big dreams of a bright future in your company will be put off talking to you about their mental health problems if they feel that they will be passed over for promotion in the future.

Being mentally robust and able to deal with prolonged periods of stress is often seen as a key strength for executives and business owners, with those owning up to their mental health struggles consequently seen as weak.

This is an outdated perception that business leaders need to address now to stop staff suffering in silence. A good first step is to take the time to offer a friendly and compassionate ear to your team and open up a forum for discussion. Let them know that you’re there to listen and be non-judgmental. If feasible, bring in a professional to offer mental health support to larger teams. This could involve revisiting wellness programs to incorporate mindfulness and meditation training, counselling or workplace coaching.

Job security concerns

With the economy going through a period of uncertainty, it’s easy to see how some could feel that they need to keep quiet about their mental health through fear of losing their position should redundancies need to be made.

Reminding staff that mental health issues are nothing to be ashamed of and will not feature in any decisions in the event of job losses is reassuring. It can help those struggling to feel more secure and be more open about any difficulties they are currently facing. Transparency is important here so where appropriate, communicate with your staff regularly if you believe that the business needs to adapt to current market circumstances and the reasons for that.

They don’t believe you can help

Unfortunately, one of the main reasons that staff won’t turn to their employers for help with their mental health is because they don’t feel that there is sufficient support on offer.

You can reach out to organisations such as ACAS, who offer a wide range of support tools for employers and staff, to put formal structures and processes in place. Remember, mental health problems can be just as debilitating as physical injuries, and just as complex so there is no shame either from a business perspective in wanting to learn more or call in expert help to get strong structures in place.

They don’t want the world to know

Many staff have become experts at hiding mental health problems as they do not want their colleagues to know over fears they’ll become a burden to their team.

Privacy is key if you want your team to come to you with any issues they might be experiencing. Why not send an email to your staff reminding them of the steps you will take to protect their privacy? You could also offer out of hours meetings to anyone that feels they need to talk. Not only will this give them a greater sense of security when detailing any problems they are currently facing, but it shows that you are on hand to support them on their journey towards total improved mental wellbeing.


Also published on Medium.

Written by
Scott Dylan
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Scott Dylan

I’m Scott Dylan, Fresh Thinking Group Founder and Partner. I oversee the strategic direction of the company, which I created to help, acquire and invest in both distressed and viable companies together with helping businesses improve their business processes and setting strategic directions.