Skip to main content

Last week was Mental Health Awareness Week, but at Thrive4Life, our discussions don’t stop here. We talk about mental health every week of the year in an effort to make speaking out about the mental health challenges many of us face easier and more commonplace.

However, we also know that navigating discussions around mental wellbeing in the workplace can be challenging. Where should you start? How can you begin the conversation? The workplace is deeply tied to notions of professionalism – and unfortunately, this ‘professionalism’ has often been wrongly associated with the idea that it would be unprofessional to talk about specific topics at work, something that, when combined with embarrassment or shame, has fuelled the stigmatisation of many important subjects, including our mental health. As a result, many of us feel hesitant to discuss our mental health openly with managers or colleagues for fear of being perceived as ‘bringing our problems to work’, being unreliable, ‘flaky’, or even unfit for our roles.

Recent studies show that 1 in 6 employees in the UK deal with mental ill-health, yet less than half of employees feel comfortable speaking to their line manager about their mental health. Therefore, discussing mental health in the workplace is just as crucial as addressing it in more personal settings. While it may seem challenging to lead these conversations, it doesn’t have to be.

Picture this: if an employee suddenly started to limp, it would be almost second nature to ask if they were okay. Conversations around mental health demand the same levels of empathy, care, and concern (and it’s important to remember that like some physical health issues, they may not always have obvious symptoms/be clear to see – we don’t always know what’s going on beneath the surface). The key is to create a supportive, kind, and non-judgemental environment where employees can feel comfortable discussing their mental health just as they would any physical ailment.

Why is Talking about Mental Health So Important in the Workplace?

Mental Health at Work

Openly talking about mental health will not only help dissolve the stigma but will also encourage open communication and create a more positive and inclusive environment. When employees feel valued and heard, they tend to have higher wellbeing and performance levels, driving increased engagement, commitment, and productivity.

The bottom line is that normalising mental health conversations in the workplace is necessary to achieve a healthy, functioning, and supportive environment. However, sometimes navigating these discussions may leave you feeling a little out of your depth – that’s why we’re here to assist you in leading these conversations with empathy, kindness, and understanding.

Tips for Talking About Mental Health at Work


1. Confidence is Key!

The best way to be approachable and confident, ready to tackle sensitive conversations, is to know you have the knowledge to talk to your team. Educating yourself on mental health will give yourself a better opportunity to understand, support, and engage in meaningful conversations.

Being confident and up-to-date in your knowledge about mental health and mental ill-health will allow your employees to not only express their feelings with ease but also feel heard and validated. You’ll also come across as more approachable and supportive, making employees feel like they have someone to both trust and turn to if they are experiencing challenges with their emotional wellbeing.

How can you ensure you (and your team) have the necessary tools and information to effectively navigate mental health conversations in the workplace?

Our training courses are a great place to start:

  • Our Line Management Training course will help you become more attuned to stress and mental health in the workplace, equipping you with practical skills to monitor and engage with those who are struggling.
  • Our Mental Health First Aid course will provide you with a clearer understanding of mental health and mental ill-health, empowering you with the confidence to step in, reassure, and support any employees in distress.
  • Our Mental Health Skills Development course is a follow-on course to our Mental Health First Aid course – designed to build upon your existing knowledge of Mental Health First Aid, offering additional support to further improve your abilities.
  • Our Ultimate Guide to Conquering Workplace Stress series offers readers valuable insights into workplace stress management. In Part 3 of this series, “The Role of Communication in Stress Reduction”, you’ll find a conversation-by-conversation structured framework for navigating conversations about stress with your team.
Mens Mental Health at Work

2. Choose the Right Place and Right Time

For many of us, talking about our mental health can feel awkward or uncomfortable. Therefore, it is essential to establish appropriate and comfortable conditions for these conversations. Paying attention to the setting and timings of these discussions can help create a safe space for employees to open up.

Privacy should be prioritised, so conducting these discussions in a private setting is essential. For example, if you want to have a chat with an employee you know is experiencing workplace anxiety, you could suggest going to a coffee shop down the road or taking a short walk in a nearby park or round the block. Rather than sitting across a desk, opting for a more casual environment to chat in can help facilitate a more natural, relaxed, and less interview-like conversation.

3. Actions Speak Louder Than Words!

It’s equally important to establish the right conditions for active listening.

Body language plays a fundamental role in these conversations, as it can reflect your interest in understanding your employees’ experiences and your care for the challenges they’re facing.

Rather than crossing your arms or looking elsewhere, use affirmative and open body language: nod, lean forward, and make eye contact. All these actions are tiny yet essential for conveying your willingness to listen, understand, and help them. This will make them feel valued, respected, and supported.

4. Ask Open-Ended Questions

If you’re worried about not knowing the right things to say, remember that these conversations don’t have to be perfect. Rather, they should offer your employee a chance to express themselves and feel heard without judgement.

Sometimes, mental health conversations can be cut short if the other person repeatedly responds with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’. If this happens, be patient and have a go at directing a few open-ended questions, which can help empower the other person to lead the conversation. These types of questions can give them time to think and reflect on their feelings.

Asking Questions for Help

Talking about health and wellbeing should be something you embed into your company culture. Here at Thrive4Life, the following provisions can help you normalise it:

  • Our Educational Wellbeing Talks and Webinars encourage open conversations about health and wellbeing in the workplace. Some of our latest mental health-related talks have included “Managing Anxiety and Finding Inner Calm” with Karen Liebenguth, mindfulness and meditation teacher/life and executive coach, and “Stress, Emotional Resilience and the Role of Mindfulness” with Cheryl Isaacs, author and chartered occupational psychologist.
  • Our Health and Wellbeing Monthly Newsletters cover a wide range of topics on all the pillars of health and wellbeing, including mental and emotional health. Recent mental health-themed articles have covered Mental Health Awareness Week, morning anxiety, conquering the January blues, and the vagus nerve and its impact on our emotions.

5. Planning Out Your Next Steps is Critical

While talking about mental health is vital, it’s also important to consider the next steps in providing support for employees in need. Talk must be paired with action.

After speaking with an employee, you should collaborate to develop an action plan that you both feel happy about and that effectively manages and supports their mental health needs. The action plan should identify symptoms, triggers, and impacts while also addressing the necessary support from managers and outlining the next steps.

For example, if an employee was feeling stressed, you could consider offering more flexible working hours and weekly one-to-one catch-ups to help them manage their workload and prioritise their tasks.


At Thrive4Life, we offer Wellbeing Champion Training services, which provide staff with the skills to monitor their colleagues’ mental wellbeing, identify signs of distress, and support them with guidance and advice from experts.

How to Reach Out if You’re Struggling with Your Mental Health

If you want to do the best job of supporting your team, you’ve got to take care of yourself first. Similar to how a flight attendant encourages you to put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others, prioritising self-care ensures that you are in the best position to support those around you.

It’s essential to get all the senior leaders on board with normalising conversations around mental health. Then, if you’re struggling with mental health, you can expect the same kind of empathy, honesty, and care from your colleagues. So, don’t be afraid to schedule a chat with a colleague or manager to seek support if you need it – by asking for help, you’ll be setting an example for your team and letting them know that there’s no need to feel worried, awkward, or embarrassed about receiving support.

We all experience fluctuations in mental health to various degrees. However, cultivating a workplace environment grounded in open communication and understanding guarantees that you won’t have to face challenges alone.

In Summary

Remember, you don’t have to be a mental health professional to check in on an employee. These conversations don’t have to be formal or perfect – they can be casual and something as simple as getting a coffee together. Kindness, understanding, and openness are the key to a meaningful conversation.

Showing concern and care for an employee’s wellbeing can make a world of difference if they’re struggling. However, it’s crucial to remember to fill up your own cup, too, before you can support those around you.

If you require further support, here are some trusted resources you can rely on, taken from the Mind website:

  • Samaritans: are there to talk about anything that’s distressing you – they’re ready to talk every single day of the year, 24 hours a day.
    • You can call 116 123 for free from any phone, send an email to, or go and see someone in person. (You can talk to someone on The Samaritans Welsh Language Line on 0808 164 0123 between 7pm–11pm every day.)
  • Shout: if you don’t want to talk to anyone, Shout provides round-the-clock, confidential support for those struggling with their mental health through a text message service.
    • You can send Shout a text on 85258.
  • National Suicide Prevention Helpline UK: this service is available to anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts.
    • Call this helpline from 6pm – midnight every day on 0800 689 5652.
  • Switchboard: if you’re LGBTQIA+ and need to talk to someone, you can call Switchboard between 10am and 10pm everyday. All phone operators are LGBTQIA+.
    • You can call this helpline on 0300 330 0630.
Thank you! Your subscription has been confirmed. You'll hear from us soon.
Subscribe to our email newsletter