How to Discuss Mental Health at Work
Daniella Okorobie
How to Discuss Mental Health at Work

Mental health refers to a person’s cognitive, behavioral, and emotional well-being. It’s about how people think, feel, and behave. Mental health can affect daily living, relationships, and physical health. A state of good mental health is when an individual realizes their abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively, and can contribute to their community.

Mental health issues can range from the worries we all experience daily to severe long-term conditions such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and others. It’s also important to remember that mental health is complex. The fact that someone is not experiencing a mental health condition doesn’t necessarily mean their mental health is flourishing. Likewise, it’s possible to be diagnosed with a mental health condition while feeling well in many aspects of life.

The Connection between Mental Health and Productivity in the Workplace

Mental health isn’t a matter exclusive to the realm of healthcare practitioners; it permeates various aspects of society, including the workplace. The repercussions of mental health conditions in a work setting are multilayered, leading to amplified absenteeism, diminished work output, and escalating healthcare expenditures. These conditions can precipitate further detrimental consequences like decreased job satisfaction, strained workplace relationships, and heightened staff attrition rates.

Mental health issues can significantly undermine workplace productivity. These conditions manifest in numerous ways that can directly hamper an individual’s ability to function optimally in their role. Cognitive processes such as focus, decision-making, and task execution can be severely compromised, affecting the overall output of an employee. Furthermore, the physical manifestation of mental health issues may lead to a higher degree of absenteeism, with affected individuals frequently requiring time away from work to manage their condition.

The stigma that still, unfortunately, surrounds mental health issues exacerbates these challenges. Prejudiced views and misunderstandings can lead to discomfort or fear in employees dealing with mental health conditions. This may deter them from seeking help, further magnifying the negative impact on productivity. The effect of this stigma can also foster a hostile or unsupportive work environment, leading to low morale, reduced engagement, and potentially even higher turnover rates.

Therefore, understanding the profound influence of mental health on workplace productivity is crucial for any organization. By addressing mental health openly and proactively, employers can promote a healthier, more inclusive work environment that not only supports individual employees but also enhances the overall productivity and success of the organization.

How to Discuss Mental Health at Workplace

Discussing mental health in the professional arena may present challenges, but it remains an essential dialogue that we must engage in. To effectively address mental health in the workplace, here are some comprehensive steps:

1. Cultivate a Safe and Encouraging Environment

The foundation of any discussion about mental health at work is establishing a setting where employees are at ease talking about their experiences and feelings. This necessitates creating a culture that values transparency, empathy, and acceptance. 

Importantly, there should be firm policies that explicitly prohibit any form of discrimination against individuals based on their mental health status. This approach helps to cultivate a reassuring and supportive atmosphere in which employees feel acknowledged and protected.

2. Promote Mental Health Education and Training Staff

De-stigmatizing mental health begins with education. Try enlightening employees about mental health, breaking down misconceptions, and promoting understanding. This could involve organizing workshops, holding seminars, or providing access to online courses.

In addition, managers, who are often the first point of contact, should be adequately trained to recognize the signs of mental health issues. They need to understand the importance of providing the necessary support to their team members and discern when it might be appropriate to recommend professional mental health support.

3. Offer Accessible Resources

Providing resources for employees to help manage their mental health is vital. This can involve sharing information about local mental health services, initiating an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that provides confidential and professional help, or introducing ‘mental health days as part of the organization’s leave policy, allowing employees time off to focus on their mental well-being.

4. Facilitate Open Dialogues

Encourage transparent conversations about mental health. A forum for employees to express their feelings, share their experiences, or ask questions can promote a more understanding and empathetic workplace culture. Such open conversations could be facilitated through team meetings, individual check-ins with superiors or human resources, or even by observing dedicated mental health days focusing on mental health topics. This approach benefits not only the individuals experiencing mental health issues but also the overall productivity and morale of the organization.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Discussing Mental Health at Work


  • Increased Awareness and Understanding: Talking about mental health can help raise awareness and understanding of these issues, leading to greater acceptance and support for struggling individuals.
  • Improved Productivity: By addressing mental health issues, companies can reduce absenteeism and increase productivity.
  • Better Employee Morale and Retention: Employees are likely to feel more valued and supported if their mental health is taken seriously, improving morale and leading to better retention.


  • Privacy Concerns: Some employees may feel uncomfortable discussing their mental health issues at work due to concerns about confidentiality and privacy.
  • Potential Misuse of Information: There’s a risk that personal information about an employee’s mental health could be used inappropriately.

Discussing mental health at work is crucial. While challenges and potential drawbacks exist, the benefits for individuals and organizations are significant. The key is approaching the topic with sensitivity, respect, and understanding, providing support and resources where needed, and creating a culture that values all employees’ mental health and well-being.

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