Managing mental illness in the workplace

As a manager, you may be among the first to notice when your staff member is having difficulty. By recognising the signs of emotional distress, acknowledging it and responding with interest and concern, you can play a vital role in helping them find appropriate assistance and referral to resolve the issues.

If a staff member advises you that they are not managing their pre-existing mental illness (discloses they have a mental illness) or are experiencing some form of 'distress' it is important to note the factors that could be attributed to this:

  • it could be an indicator that something is not quite right in the broader work environment and as such, should be a matter of concern to you as a manager and needs to be addressed immediately
  • there could be external influences that are causing your staff member to feel distressed.

You should treat disclosure of mental illness seriously and act accordingly

Your role as a manager:

  • decide if the work environment or something external to work is creating this distress
  • discuss with your staff member how they feel their distress/ inability to manage their mental illness is impacting on their work
  • identify necessary adjustments (e.g. change in work hours, duties, responsibilities, location) and arrange for these to be provided
  • put together a management plan that will help them in:
    • remaining at work or
    • returning to work if they need to take time off work
  • encourage them to seek professional support and provide details of relevant support available to them both internally and external to ANU
  • provide support and understanding while they work through their issues and recovery
  • observe confidentiality and respect your staff members' privacy unless you feel that they are at risk of harming themselves or causing harm to others.

If your staff member is at risk of harming themselves or causing harm to others, respond immediately and treat this as an emergency / crisis situation

Note: It is important to maintain an ongoing dialogue with your employee as their management plan will need monitoring and reviewing over time as their health will either improve or deteriorate.


Early intervention will reduce the risk of the situation deteriorating

Page owner: Human Resources