Have you ever reflected on the role you play in supporting your team members in terms of their mental health? Have you considered whether your previous responses to situations have helped a team member feel understood and supported, or alienated and invalidated? We understand that with the business pressures and uncertainties associated with the current climate, it may not have been something you have consciously reflected on.
Our Umbrella team often hear that conversations about mental health are some of the most anxiety-provoking conversations for leaders. Leaders are often afraid that they may make the situation worse and therefore they may put off having conversations with team members unless things get really bad. Others may jump in and take control, thereby inadvertently taking autonomy away from a struggling team member.
Therefore, we have put together six guiding principles to help you most effectively support team members who may be struggling with their mental health.
Statistics indicate that 1 in 5 New Zealanders will experience mental illness in any 12-month period, and 47% of us will meet criteria for a mental illness within our lifetimes (Hauora Study, 2015). Based on these statistics, there is a high likelihood that at any one time you may have someone in your team struggling with their mental health. To help you manage people struggling with mental health, we outline the following six guiding principles in our Promoting Mental Health at Work and Managing Mental Health workshops. These workshops are specifically designed for leaders, and the guiding principles presented in the workshops can be used to help inform your thinking, conversations and actions.
When a team member is struggling with their mental health it can be tempting to jump in and try to solve their situation. By doing so, we can sometimes take control, make decisions on their behalf and give our advice freely. Remember that the team member knows themselves better than anyone else, so make sure to seek their input and listen to them. Take a note of whether the conversation feels reciprocal or whether you are doing most of the talking. Support and empower the team member to speak up. Ideally you are taking on a listening role, which means, where appropriate, seeking clarity and providing a verbal summary of what the team member has said. This sends a powerful message that you have been listening.