Supporting Employees with a mental health condition
Each year, Mothers’ Day evokes poignant memories for me.
I spent my first Mothers’ Day as a mother in a psychiatric facility for women with Postnatal Depression. On admission, I was told the average stay was four weeks. Naively I thought I would be out of there after only a couple of weeks of good sleep and better rest during the day.
How wrong I was. After four months in hospital, I was finally well enough to return home with my almost one-year-old baby. Mine was a fairly serious case of PND.
Despite longing to be a mother my whole life, I found the challenges of being a new parent overwhelmed me, and I became one of the 1 in 5 women who experience some form of anxiety and/or depression following the childbirth.
Research shows this is not something that only new mothers experience. One in 10 new dads also experience some form of perinatal anxiety and/or depression.
Given these men and women of childbearing age are a large proportion of our workforce, it’s vital that employers understand how they can support an employee with a diagnosed mental health condition.
In fact, work can play a critical role in the recovery of someone experiencing anxiety or depression.
Work can provide them with structure and daily routine, support feelings of meaning and purpose, provide an opportunity for social inclusion and support, and enabling financial security.
Australian employers also have legal responsibilities and obligations to safeguard the rights of employees with mental health conditions. This includes, but is not limited to, making reasonable adjustments to enable employees to perform their duties as effectively as possible.
So, how can employers support employees who have a diagnosed mental health condition?
Here are five ideas to get you started.
- Make the time to listen and offer support. While maintaining their privacy, take an interest in your employee’s life and how they are managing things at the moment.
- Ask your employee’s permission to speak with their health professional to find out more ways in which the workplace can support their recovery.
- Also with your employee’s consent, involve other managers and leaders in the workplace who may work with the employee in some way or another.
- Talk with your employee about how and what they would like others in the team to be told about their current situation and enable the rest of the team to understand why adjustments have been made.
- If your employee needs periods of leave as a part of their recovery, stay in touch with them regularly. Assure them of confidentiality and your genuine desire to support them in their return to work by working with them to develop a return-to-work plan.
At a time that should be one of the most joyful in their lives, new mums and dads can have feelings of stress and depression.
Your role as an employer can be key to supporting them and aiding their recovery so they can experience the joy their new family member brings.