How to Initiate Mental Health Conversations with Work Teams

How to Initiate Mental Health Conversations with Work Teams

Suppose you observe an employee who appears distant and preoccupied. In that case, their once-tidy desk is now cluttered, and there’s a noticeable decline in productivity; how do you initiate a conversation to check that they are okay? Starting these discussions can be tricky as many people worry that they will go about it in the wrong way. Onebright explores practical ways to initiate mental health conversations in a professional setting. 

Research shows employees are unlikely to disclose their mental health concerns to their organisation. When respondents were asked why they haven’t brought up their mental health with their workplace, over half (53%) said they didn’t feel comfortable talking about it. Despite the growing awareness and destigmatisation of mental health in recent years, this topic remains a challenging frontier in professional settings.

Many managers lack confidence in dealing with the subject and are unsure how to approach or initiate mental health conversations. Understandably, broaching such a personal and potentially sensitive issue requires a delicate balance: a blend of empathy, understanding, and tact. Moreover, the fear of saying the wrong thing and unintentionally exacerbating a situation holds many back. 

But avoiding the conversation altogether isn’t the solution either. As mental wellbeing becomes an increasingly prominent facet of overall employee health, leaders can play their part by equipping themselves with the tools and knowledge necessary to engage in these crucial discussions.

Provide appropriate resources

Managers can pave the way for meaningful mental health conversations by providing educational resources and training. Often, the hesitation to discuss such topics stems from a need for more understanding or an inability to relate. By investing in knowledge-building initiatives, managers can bridge this knowledge gap and create a foundation for more in-depth discussions. 

Ideas for mental health resources in the workplace include: 
  • Workshops or seminars

Ones that focus on mental health awareness and self-care. These sessions can help employees understand the importance of mental wellbeing and reduce the stigma associated with mental health issues. 

  • Self-guided mental health resources

These allow employees to access help and support at their own pace and in the privacy of their own space, which can be particularly beneficial for those who might be hesitant to discuss their mental health openly.

  • Mental health training

Training and knowledge empowers managers to recognise signs of distress and respond appropriately. This training equips them with the necessary skills to support employees and direct them to appropriate resources.

  • Be proactive

Managers who are proactive in identifying signs of mental health issues among their team members have the best outcomes. How can they do this? 

Here are some common signs a worker is struggling mentally that managers can look out for: 
  • Changes in behaviour
  • Decreased productivity
  • Increased absenteeism
  • Low engagement level
  • Anxiety 
  • Changes in appearance 
  • Confusion 


If you notice these signs, approach the individual privately and express your concern compassionately.

Here are some positive conversation starters to help them open up: 
  • How are you doing?
  • Is there anything I can support you with at the moment? 
  • Is there anything you would like to talk about? 


Let them know you are there to support them and not judge them. If they are reluctant to talk freely, talk about things in general and, most importantly, always be kind. Creating a connection will help them build some trust, making it more likely that they will talk. 

What’s the best environment for initiating a mental health conversation?

It’s essential to choose an appropriate setting and time. Find a quiet and private space where the employee feels comfortable. Avoid rushing the conversation; ensure you have enough time to listen actively without distractions. Remember, the goal is to create a safe and supportive environment where the individual feels heard and understood.

Onebright for Mental Health resources and consultancy

Remember, it’s an ongoing process that requires continuous support. Contact the Onebright team to discuss other ways to initiate mental health conversations in the workplace and contribute to your team’s wellbeing. 

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