risk management

‘How can I help you?’ and other tips for managing employees with poor mental health

Did you know almost half (43.7 percent) of Australians aged between 16 and 85 have experienced a mental health issue at some time in their life[i]? So during your working life, chances are you’ll employ or work alongside someone with a mental health issue. And importantly, if you suffer from any type of mental health disorder, this number shows you’re certainly not alone.

While most employees will effectively manage their own mental health – and some may even choose not to disclose within the workplace –  there’s a few things employers can do to ensure everyone feels safe, seen and supported.

Be curious

Don’t be scared to discuss an employee or colleague’s mental health issues with them. The less informed your workplace is about mental health issues, the less productive it will be.

Understand poor mental health is an illness

Remember, a mental illness is just that – an illness. And like other illnesses, it can be effectively treated and managed.

Make R U OK? Day every day

Celebrating R U OK? Day is great, but a year-round focus on mental health awareness is even better.

Ask ‘how can I help you?’

If you really want to make a difference, ask ‘How can I help you?’.

Check in

You’ll never embarrass anyone by asking how they are.

Learn some relaxation techniques

Better mental health in the workplace starts with you. Spend ten minutes learning some basic relaxation techniques and then teach them to your colleagues. Encourage them to take time out of their day when they need it.

Lead by example

If you're struggling with anxiety or depression, ask for help yourself.

Share experiences

CEOs. Leaders. Colleagues. Anyone can suffer from a mental illness. It doesn’t discriminate.

If people are happy to talk publicly about their experience, ask them to do so. In fact, the more senior the person, the greater the impact.

Be kind

After all, there's an almost 50/50 chance that one day you’ll experience mental health issues yourself.


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[i] National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing, 2020-21

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The information is intended to be of general nature only. Subject to any rights you may have under any law, we do not accept any legal responsibility for any loss or damage, including loss of business or profits or any other indirect loss, incurred as a result of reliance upon the information. Please make your own enquiries.