Managing a mental health crisis in the workplace

Critical incident situation

Signs of a critical situation can include feeling suicidal, having a panic attack, experiencing a psychotic episode, appearing threatening to self or others

When a staff member is suffering acute mental health distress or is threatening self-harm or harm to others:

  • where necessary, stay with the staff member. Ask a colleague to stay with them even if you only have to leave for a short time
  • tell a colleague or supervisor as soon as possible
  • contact the Adviser to Staff to help you with managing the distress. If you cannot get in contact immediately, you can also contact the ANU Health Service and ask for an emergency appointment
  • for more serious or immediate matters, call Security x 52249, Police or ambulance on 000 or the Mental Health Crisis Team on 1800 629 354. You may need to ask a colleague to help you
  • try to make the person in distress safe. If possible keep them away from windows, staircases,balconies, dangerous objects or chemicals.

Non critical incident

If a staff member is experiencing high mental or emotional distress, you can help by:

  • spending time with the staff member involved
  • listening non-judgmentally and help the person clarify things
  • explore alternatives and encourage the person to search for a satisfactory course of action
  • provide information on the relevant professional support they can access
  • let them know you will follow up with them at an agreed on time and seek agreement from them.

If the staff member's distress increases, follow the critical incident path to ensure suitable support

What next?

Once under control and the staff member has received suitable help, you should consider the following:

  • tell the manager if not already aware: they are responsible for the continuing management and support of their staff in the workplace
  • take care of yourself: involvement in either a critical or non-critical mental health incident may leave you feeling distressed yourself. The following support is available for you and your team:
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