How do I know if my staff is struggling with their mental health?


In order to recognize when one of your employees may be going through a difficult time, you have to know your staff. SouthLight’s Senior Director of HR, Denise Kalina, shares eight tips to help supervisors recognize the mental health needs of their staff.

8 Tips to Help Employees Struggling with Mental Health

#1 – Look for changes in behavior.

You have to know your staff in order to recognize when something might be wrong. Look for a change in behavior, someone being more quiet than usual, overhearing an angry phone call, a higher number of absences – anything that indicates they’re just not themselves.

#2 – Create a supportive environment.

Build a family atmosphere with your team. Employees often know more about each other as co-workers than you do as a supervisor. Lean on them to foster a trusting, compassionate atmosphere where staff members know they can come to you if they see a concern with one of their teammates.

#3 – Schedule weekly/bi-weekly team check-ins.

Use this time not only to discuss work/department news, but to check in on a personal level. Start with a “good news” time. Celebrate when someone’s child makes the honor roll or wins a hockey tournament! Share the good news!

Checking in is especially important as many organizations (ours included) are still operating under hybrid schedules. Because of this, it’s sometimes challenging to notice changes to a staff member’s mental health when you don’t physically see each other enough.

#4 – Offer education and training about wellness.

Does your company have a formal Wellness Plan? Talk to that committee or group about offering specific trainings, such as education on nutrition, mental health and financial wellness. Interested in starting a wellness plan? Gather a group of volunteers to engage staff in wellness initiatives. Ideas will depend on your budget but could range from a monthly newsletter that offers tools and resources to on-site yoga classes and more.

#5 – Schedule team-building/bonding events.

Plan simple, ‘fun-only’ team events. Ideas could range from hosting a pot luck lunch to taking your team to lunch to hosting a bake -off challenge (winner gets a silly prize), or going for a walk outside in a park.

#6 – Be honest.

Be honest, and let your employee know you’re coming from a place of concern, not blame. It’s ok to say, “How can I help? I noticed you’ve been quiet lately, is everything ok?”

I’ve had confidential conversations with employees about attending rehab, about making accommodations for work (reduced schedule, LOA), and FMLA benefits for certain circumstances. It’s about coming from a place of support.

#7 – Take advantage of your employee assistance program (EAP).

We recognize that not all companies have the luxury to have an EAP as a benefit, and not all organizations are able to give someone a week off. However, for those who do have EAP, it’s important to remember that EAP is a confidential and free benefit for all staff and their families!

We’ve used EAP with positive outcomes to help staff members and their families who may be dealing with mental health and/or substance use challenges. More importantly, however, we’ve been able to recognize when a staff member is struggling and then recommend that they attend EAP sessions, which has had a really positive impact.

#8 – Use your human resources (HR) department.

Work with your human resources department! Often, HR departments are able to have more sensitive, confidential conversations with your staff about possible benefits to help them. Keep in mind, these conversations are not easy! Your HR department is there to support and guide you through those difficult conversations and even take over when it’s a confidential matter.

Mental Health Resources for Supervisors

SouthLight provides compassionate care to all people in our community, regardless of race, demographic or background. A list of comprehensive mental health & substance use resources is here.

We also invite you to check out the following articles on mental health, written by our team of licensed clinicians:

About the Denise Kalina, SPHR

Denise Kalina is the Senior Director of Human Resources at SouthLight Healthcare. She has been working in HR for over 25 years and holds her SPHR credential, Senior Professional in Human Resources.