Mental health conversations for managers.  The impact on our lives and work of the Covid-19 situation has been significant.  We’ve all had to adapt to a new rhythm of life, unfamiliar methods of working and different ways of keeping in touch with people and because, from a neuroscience perspective, our brain interprets all change initially as a threat, this will inevitably have had some impact on our mental health.

With this additional Covid Effect, never has it been more important, than now, for us to focus on wellbeing and for managers, there is the additional challenge of, not only managing their own wellbeing, but also that of their team. 

Mental health conversations for managers

What is the Covid Effect?

Well, in addition to the fact that few of the social and leisure activities that we might normally rely on to keep us in positive mental health are available to us, there are other additional considerations that Covid brings, that are having an impact for us all.  You can read about those here.  

We shared our advice for managers in dealing with this in our previous blog, where we outlined the importance of putting on ones own oxygen mask first, so that we are more equipped to help others cognitively, emotionally, physically and psychologically, and one of the key tools in our managers toolkit: Wellness Action Plans.

The focus of today’s blog is on tool number 3, which is concerned with:  

Making having a conversation about mental health both normal and easy

Whilst we know that talking about mental health issues can significantly reduce the impact of them, stigma, and a person’s lack of understanding about this may prevent them talking openly about it.

We know that people are often reluctant to disclose to their manager that they are experiencing a mental health issue.

In fact, according to the charity Mind, 19% of employees feel that they can’t talk to their manager about stress at work – that’s almost 1 in every 5 people, and that’s just the people who are reluctant to discuss stress – for other mental health issues, the percentage is likely to be higher.

Equally, we know that not talking about a mental health issue can make the issue worse and so whilst it is not wise to pressure someone to talk, it is advisable to make it possible to talk and often this means approaching the person proactively.


This is where our relationships with those we manage are so important.

Approaching someone who may be experiencing a mental health issue to have a conversation about it can be challenging.

However, it is preferable to attempt to resolve concerns at an early stage in order to protect them and the organisation, so if you believe that a team member may be experiencing a mental health issue and they haven’t approached you, take the lead and arrange a conversation as soon as possible. 


Sometimes people don’t feel confident to mention it themselves and may appreciate you doing so.

This tool suggests a process for managing the situation sensitively and effectively, with guidance around what to consider, or do:

  • Before the conversation

    Think about what is an appropriate location and time to meet.  Make a note of your observations and ensure them of confidentiality.

  • At the start of the conversation

    Approach with sensitivity and from the perspective of ‘care’.  Ask questions and avoid making assumptions.  Practice active listening.

  • During the conversation
    Exhibit patience and be reassuring.  Share your own experience – just enough to demonstrate that what they are experiencing or sharing is normal.  Ask questions and discuss possible solutions (use the WAP template to guide this).  Stay calm.
  • At the end of the conversation
    Agree on a solution, or more than one.  Highlight the support available to them.
  • After the conversation
    Play it back to them in an email.  Be available and monitor the situation.

To receive our detailed Helpsheet, get in touch

Visit the HSE website for current news about mental health.

To Promote Positive Mental Health At Work?

Find out by taking our quick Mental Health At Work Quiz This short quiz will take you through the six areas of ‘work design’ that highlight the primary sources of stress at work that, when not managed well, are associated with poor mental health and can lead to increased absenteeism and presenteeism, resulting in reduced creativity, productivity and results.

Take The Mental Health At Work Quiz NOW!