Your Guide to Handling Mental Health Sensitively in the Workplace

According to Mental Health America, the nation’s leading community-based nonprofit dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness in America, less than one-third of Americans are happy with their work. Half of the workforce is “checked-out.”  Eighteen percent are unhappy with their current position with some even sabotaging the success of their workplace.  An unhappy or unhealthy work environment is bad for a business’ bottom line and bad for employees. And for those with these concerns or mental health concerns, it can be especially challenging.

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By educating managers, leaders and small business owners on how to spot and understand how an employee may be affected because of mental health concerns, employers can better assist employees who face mental health challenges“For healthy employees and employers, we need to recognize the importance of destigmatizing mental health and to see the person as a whole person rather than as ‘a mental health problem,'” says Christiane Manzella, PhD, FT Clinical Director, Seleni, a New York-based nonprofit that works to destigmatize and transform mental health by addressing real-life issues that challenge the emotional health of women, men, and their families.

How can employers do this? Manzella offered these tips for leaders and managers seeking information on how to address mental health in the workplace:

1. Destigmatize:
Help destigmatize mental health challenges by recognizing that millions of individuals experience mental health concerns that span a wide spectrum – such as normative distress in response to challenges or uncertainty to serious mental health concerns and that help is available.

2. Learn about self-doubt:
Learn about ways that self-doubt in your employees can become transformed to self-confidence and that awareness around identifying and transforming mental health challenges can help make employees more sensitive and therefore more effective in their roles.

3. Support employees:
Support employees by helping them approach and prioritize practical on-the-job performance tasks while finding ways to bridge these tasks to your organizational core values that include attention to self-care in support of effective employees.

4. Core values:
Facilitate and support ways that each employee’s core values can be reinforced and supported as carry out and fulfill work duties.
Work-related stress is reaching epidemic rates, according to the American Institute of Stress. In her book, Says Who? How One Simple Question Can Change The Way You Think Forever, Ora Nadrich has created an incredibly easy to follow method to get rid of work stress and job-related worries.

“Many employers are unaware of how to best handle their employee’s difficulties with stress or overall feelings of unhappiness in the workplace, and by implementing Mindfulness, they stand a better chance at helping them feel safe and comfortable to perform better,” says Nadrich.

Here are some tips how:

  1. Acknowledge your employees presence. Recognize them as an individual, not one of many employees. Addressing them by their name with good eye contact helps make them feel seen.
  2. Assure your employee that their work is needed and valued, and that you’re not judging them by “how” they’re doing, but by “what” they are doing, and whatever they can do matters and is important.
  3. Speak to your employee with respect and non-judgement. Don’t make them feel that they have to prove something to you, but that their work is something that can help make them feel good about themselves, and also help contribute to a group dynamic.
  4. Compliment your employee, and tell them that their work is helpful and worthwhile.
  5. Thank your employee for the work they were able to do, and encourage them to keep up the good work they have done.

“By being a mindful employer you can encourage mindfulness in your employees,” says Nadrich. “Being present with non-judgment and acceptance helps create a calm, yet productive working environment for both employer and employee.”

Quick Tips

The U.S. Small Business Administration provides these tips for implementing health and wellness programs in a small business with limited resources or budgets:

  • Talk to your employees. Find out what aspects of an employer-sponsored health and wellness plan they would value most. It could be discounted gym memberships, quarterly sponsored walks/runs, or employee-led healthy cooking workshops.
  • Get ideas for your wellness program. This blog offers creative and engaging ideas for a low-cost or no-cost employee wellness program.
  • Consult your healthcare insurance provider. Many now offer tools and resources to help employers develop programs. Familiarize yourself with the types of programs that make sense for your business.

Written by

Matt Krumrie is a career columnist and professional resume writer who has been providing helpful information and resources for job seekers and employers for 15+ years. Learn more about Krumrie via, connect with him on LinkedIn ( and follow him on Twitter via @MattKrumrie.

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