As a business owner, do you know how to speak to an employee who is struggling with their mental health, giving them the support they need? We’ve sourced expert advice for ensuring you use mindful language when talking to staff.

“When speaking with a colleague with mental health issues, you need to let them know that you’re there for them through listening and the language you use,” says Georgie Smedley Group ambassador, Diana Pajeva. “Rather than showing any annoyance towards them, try to understand where they are coming from. Just because you can’t see the symptoms of a mental health issue, doesn’t mean they aren’t there.”

Diana Pajeva

Celebrity and editorial make-up artist turned psychotherapist and coach, Lee Pycroft, reveals that reflective listening, a technique that involves carefully listening and reflecting the emotional content of what the person has said, is helpful for those struggling with their mental health. “Offering a brief summary of what you have understood can have a calming effect on the distressed person as it lets them know they have been heard,” she explains.

When speaking with someone who has anxiety, Lee uses the following example to show good use of reflective listening: ‘It sounds like you have been feeling anxious a lot and not known how you can turn that feeling off, which has been really uncomfortable for you.’

Lee Pycroft

She adds that asking open-ended rather than close-ended questions can be helpful as it encourages the person to open up and give a longer answer than just ‘yes’ or ‘no’, helping you to know how you can help them. Open-ended questions typically start with ‘how’, ‘what’ or where’. For example…

  • Open-ended: ‘How do you feel today?’ VS. Close-ended: ‘Are you feeling better today?’
  • Open-ended: ‘What helps you most when you feel anxious?’ VS. Close-ended: ‘Can I be of help when you feel anxious?’

“Perhaps also have a code for an employee who suffers with their mental health to use in severe situations,” advises Georgie Smedley Group educator, Emma Prescott. “Something that would be usual to say in the workplace such as ‘I just need to make a quick call’ could actually mean ‘I can feel a panic attack coming on – please may I have a break?’

Emma Prescott

“You could even offer the option of speaking via email or through handwritten notes if face-to-face conversation about issues is difficult,” she adds.

By Editor