Help! I think my employee may have a mental health issue.

By April 29, 2021 Blog
Mental Health Advice for Managers

Help! I think my employee may have a mental health issue.

With 1 in 5 people experiencing mental health issues, this scenario is becoming more common when managing a business.

A mental illness can cause significant changes to someone’s thoughts, feelings and behaviour. It may impair a person’s functioning and can be persistent over time.

Suppose an employee has been a good performer with little or no issues in the past. You notice a change in their personality, demeanour or performance. You suspect this may be an indication that they are experiencing some form of mental illness.

Trying to help someone as soon as possible will potentially prevent the problem from becoming worse. The sooner they seek help, the better the chances for a quicker recovery.

Symptoms – what to look for?

So, what types of things have you noticed in your employee?  They may:

  • display less energy or appear tired all the time
  • have difficulty concentrating or making decisions,
  • be physically moving slowly
  • become agitated quickly or are unable to settle
  • demonstrate changes in their eating habits, such as loss of appetite or an increase in eating
  • are there other physical signs, such as disorientation, dizziness, breathlessness, shallow breathing, sweating or shivering, difficulty in swallowing?

These are all common symptoms of anxiety, depression or substance use (the most common mental illnesses in Australia).

While you may notice one or many of these symptoms, it doesn’t always mean that someone has a mental health illness. Now is the time to have the conversation!


First – find a good moment, where you have enough time to spend with your employee.  This should be uninterrupted and held somewhere private. Your employee should feel safe.

Start the conversation with something along the lines of:  “I’ve noticed that…., I see that you are/have…, I’m concerned/worried that…


Be prepared to listen – and we mean really listen! You don’t need to talk – your job is to listen and be non-judgmental whilst they explain what’s been going on for them.  You can give nonverbal cues – nodding, making eye contact, making the uh, umm sounds – BUT JUST LISTEN.

It’s not a time for you to talk about your cousin who had this thing once – you need to hear what your employee is telling you, and from there, you can offer support.


Support can be provided in a variety of ways.  There is emotional support, giving hope for recovery and practical or professional help. If you’re the owner of the business, then there are also practical ways of providing support through the employment relationship, including access to personal leave or Employee Assistance Programs.

Don’t be afraid to start a conversation with an employee about who you have genuine concerns. It doesn’t hurt anyone to say, “Hey, I’ve noticed this about you. Are you ok?”

If you need specific advice to help your employee, the team at Strawberry Seed can help.

We can also provide Mental Health First Aid Training for you or your team. For more information on our Mental Health First Aid Course, click here or contact us at or on (03) 4216 5200.


Frances Orr

Author Frances Orr

Frances is a Human Resources professional with a passion for supporting small business. She is also an accredited Mental Health First Aid Instructor.

More posts by Frances Orr

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