Use these 7 questions to encourage your team to discuss their mental health

Paul Dodd
February 27, 2024
min read

Due to the stigma surrounding mental health, it can be a difficult subject to bring up and discuss with your teammates. With that in mind, we’ve written 7 questions below that can allow business leaders and managers to gain insights and open up discussion in a comfortable and non-judgmental way. Try using these in your next 1-2-1. 

1. How have you been?

Small talk aside, genuinely asking about someone's well-being can make a difference. The common question is ‘How are you’ which tends to generate an auto-response of ‘Yer, ok - fine thanks’. Tweaking it slightly, provokes more thought and a more considered answer. Also tie the question into things you’ve noticed or know, like a recent loss or change in circumstance. “I’ve been meaning to ask, how have you been since you moved house” and gently inquire if everything's alright. Give them time to respond without interruption and listen actively for sings of pain or distress.

2. How's your stress levels lately?

Sometimes, discussing stress can be an easier entry point into talking about mental health than directly addressing it. It’s something that’s almost universally understood, experienced by all and is a safe and stigma free starting point to discuss mental health. Acknowledge difficult times they've faced, offering a listening ear and allow their conversation to flow without trying to lighten the mood or alter the course of discussion.

3. Have you been eating and sleeping well?

Changes in eating or sleeping patterns can indicate underlying mental health struggles. But again it’s a space where most people feel comfortable discussing their habits, and any potential changes. “Do you know what, I’ve hardly slept this past week” might be something shared here. Allow them to share why without prying for more information. Express empathy to anything shared here, and suggest seeking professional advice “That must be tough for you, have you thought about speaking with your GP about it?”.

4. Is there anything you want to talk about?

Usually at about this point, you’ll be able to tell how well someone is opening up and sharing their feelings. This question gives them permission to discuss tough topics, which can delve deeper into conversations about mental health. Respect their boundaries if they're not ready to open up, but let them know that you’re always there if they want to.

5. Would you be willing to talk to someone?

Starting with ‘someone’ keeps it open, rather than directly approaching the topic of therapy. Instead gauge response and if positive emphasise its benefits and highlight any external support tools that your business offers for anonymous and impartial discussions.

The mere suggestion of external support, and what’s available to them can open someone's mind to the idea. Also note the flexibility and different options available, for example many people see huge benefits with online therapy as it feels less intimidating than seeing a therapist face-to-face. 

6. What can I do for you?

Offer practical assistance or emotional support without being intrusive. Simple everyday tasks and queries can cause overwhelm and can seem impossible for those struggling with their mental health. It can be small things that may seem insignificant to you - ‘can I make you a brew’, ‘Let me sort the last few slides on that presentation’ or ‘I’ll cover your last hour if you want to nip off early to beat the traffic’; that can make a huge impact for someone struggling.

There may be some resistance to accepting this support, but let them know you're there to help in any way they need.

7. When is the best time to check in with you again?

Respect their space while showing your support. Agree on a time and format to follow up again, this could be a text, phone call, video or in-person chat, let them choose and ensure that they understand that you care about them and that you're there when they need you.

These questions can be a great starting point to improving openness and communication around the subject of mental health. But remember they aren’t the full solution to effectively supporting your team's mental health and wellbeing. 

If you’re unsure about the effectiveness of your organisation's workplace wellbeing strategy - please don’t hesitate to contact us for a free and impartial review. We’ll provide guidance and advice on best practice to proactively support your team to move more swiftly toward optimum health and potential.

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