5 tips for managing employees with mental health issues

According to a WHO report, 15% of working adults were estimated to have a mental health disorder in 2019. Mental health has been a hot topic since the start of the pandemic in January 2020. The pandemic provided employees with the opportunity to reflect on the importance of how their mental health impacts their quality of life and as result, employers are now faced with the challenge of providing some form of access to mental health services as the competition for top talent is fierce and employees are assessing the perks associated with working for different companies. 

While some employees who don’t have a mental health illness are looking for companies that promote mental wellness, there are other cases where employers may have individuals within their workplace that are diagnosed with some form of a mental health illness or other disabilities. In these situations, it is important for employers to provide adequate resources to support their employees and also learn how to manage employees with mental health issues.

📝 All articles on Wysa are reviewed by mental healthcare professionals before publication, who check that the content is thorough and accurate, and references the latest evidence-based research. Learn more. 

5 tips that can help manage employees with mental health conditions

1. Conduct supervisor training: 

Employers can allot a certain amount of the company’s funds to go towards training their managers on how to identify signs of mental health symptoms and/or behavior changes within their employees. Equipping managers to assess mental health challenges is essential to the future success of the company as such challenges can impact productivity. It will also show employees that the organization cares about their mental health and well-being.

2. Increase mental health awareness: 

Employers can also incorporate monthly social activities that promote mental health awareness. These events can include licensed mental health professionals speaking on a specific topic related to mental illness and providing tips on how to cope. Employers can also provide wellness activities such as monthly yoga, meditation, deep breathing and other classes to help promote mental wellness. Social activities are helpful as they offer prevention tools and promote the importance of addressing mental health illness within the workplace. Wysa, a mental health support app, has an employer offering that include webinars and guided meditations by mental health professionals that can help in raising mental health awareness. 

Another way of increasing mental health awareness is by setting up a mental health employee resource group that can provide psychological safety at a workplace so that employees feel more comfortable in talking about mental health reated issues. 

3. Include mental health resources or benefits for employees: 

Employers can also incorporate EAP programs with mental health apps to help employees address personal or work-related challenges that can exacerbate mental health symptoms. 

Therapy and mental health resources offer a wide variety of services to address suicide prevention, major depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses. Wysa is one such app, that in addition to an AI chat support that is available 24×7, also offers human coaching via text for those that need additional support. Employers can also provide employees with a mental health resource guide with national suicide and crisis support helplines and other organizations that provide support for individuals with mental health illnesses.    

4. Assess the wellbeing of your employees:

Employers can send out monthly surveys to assess the overall wellbeing of employees. Surveys could include questions related to the level of stress within the work environment and their professional role. Surveys could also include questions to assess if employees feel the work environment is hostile or supportive towards individuals with a mental health illness. Wysa provides one such survey that can measure employee wellbeing anonymously

This is important because employees’ mental health illnesses can often be exacerbated by work-related stress. It’s also important for employees and employers to communicate openly and provide honest feedback to build trust with one another.  

⚠️If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, help is at hand. Please visit this list of helplines and resources for different countries.

5. Offer reasonable adjustments to employees where needed:

Employers can also talk to their employees about possible reasonable accommodations  such as changing job duties to reduce stress, providing a quiet office space setting for employees with mental health challenges to do their work and providing flexible working hours. Employers can also implement other accommodations such as working from home and more frequent work breaks. 

When is it appropriate to fire an employee with mental health issues? 

There are a couple of things that employers should keep in mind when it comes to figuring out when it’s appropriate to take the step of firing an employee with mental health issues.

  1. Employers must be familiar with the laws regarding the disabilities act, equal employment opportunity commission and local employment discrimination law. 
  2. All matters related to addressing an employee’s mental health issues should be discussed with human resources. 
  3. While it is illegal and considered discrimination to fire an employee diagnosed with a mental illness, employers can assess whether an employee is taking appropriate steps to manage any mental health issues as it pertains to performing their job to the best of their abilities and determine appropriate steps to take as a result. 
  4. Employers must ensure the company follows ADA regulations and assess whether the employee is qualified to do their job.
  5. Employers can also assess whether an employee’s mental illness interferes with their ability to perform the essential duties of the job. 
  6. Employers may be able to terminate an employee if their behavior is unstable at work and they are a danger to others within the workplace.   

Other commonly asked questions

1. What is the employer’s responsibility when an employee has a mental illness? 

  • It is an employer’s responsibility to provide reasonable adjustments to assist their employees with a mental illness upon the employee providing appropriate documentation from a medical provider.  
  • Employers have a ‘duty of care’. This consist of making sure the company is doing everything reasonably can to support their employees’ health, safety and wellbeing. This also includes protecting the employee from discrimination and completing risks assessments. 
  • Schedule follow up appointments to check in with your employee and assess how the accommodations are helping them performing their job in addition to understanding how mental health impacts their well-being and job performance. 

2. How do you report a mentally unstable person at work? 

Assess and document the facts of what you have observed and what risks these behaviors could potentially cause for the company. 

3. Can mental health be an excuse for work?

Employees can use any benefits the employer provides such as long/short-term disability in addition to benefits they are entitled to such as the family medical leave act to take time off from work and address their mental health condition. However, the employee must inform their employer about their disability as the ADA does not protect employees from taking time off or being fired from work if they have not communicated to their employer about their condition.  

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