Key Points

As a supervisor or team leader, it is more than likely that at some stage, you will be managing people experiencing mental health problems and/or mental illness

These issues may affect work performance and safety, and may also impact not only the individual but the team and others that the person has contact with.

Most importantly, getting in early and addressing the issue can prevent things from getting worse.

  • Some possible warning signs may include Things to look out for…

    • Uncharacteristic behaviour that may be emotional or erratic e.g. overly sensitive, irritable, angry, teary, withdrawn, tense.
    • Obsession with parts of the job and neglect of others
    • Working longer or fewer hours than usual
    • Disengagement or low morale
    • Withdrawal behaviour such as reduced participation
    • Increased unplanned absences
    • Increase in use of negative language or workplace conflict
    • Physical symptoms such as appearing tired, headaches
    • Changes in physical appearance such as less attention to personal grooming
    • Reduced levels of performance
  • Why would you talk to someone you were concerned about?

    • Mental health problems may affect work performance, relationships, the team and morale.
    • Provide opportunities to help people manage mental health problems or get back to work.
    • Avoiding the conversation doesn’t mean issues will go away.
    • Addressing things early can stop things from getting worse.
    • Identifying the issue acknowledges there is a problem and can encourage people to get help.
    • Positive communication and support strengthens loyalty and worker engagement.
  • Your role

    Recognise a potential problem
    Have an effective conversation
    Ensure health and safety by:
    • Referring to support services as appropriate
    • Identifying work adjustments that are required
    • Identifying any work issues that may add to the problem
    Follow up
  • Managing performance issues, things to consider:

    • Be supportive within the boundaries of your role
    • Remember there may be many reasons for a drop in performance
    • Impact on the team, the individual and the organisation
    • Managing workloads or roles
    • Be aware of your language and attitudes
    • Look after yourself

    Non-disclosure of mental health problems

    • A worker is not obliged to disclose if they are experiencing mental health problems, unless they believe it affects their ability to do their job or it poses a safety risk.
    • They do not have to provide details eg. “I have a medical condition that means that I may forget things.”
    • It is illegal to treat a person unfairly or less favourably because they are experiencing mental health problems.
    • If you believe their health may be placing themselves or others at risk, you can request them to get a medical assessment to assess their fitness. 

    Privacy & confidentiality

    • Legally and professionally, you must keep what they tell you confidential and private UNLESS THERE IS SERIOUS OR IMMIMENT THREAT to the health, safety or property of people or as required by law.
    • Remember, (as per the Privacy Act) you should:
      • only get information that is necessary and relevant
      • tell the employee what information will be recorded and what it will be used for; and
      • who will have access to the information, how it will be stored and when it will be destroyed.
  • checklist for having a conversation