People can be hesitant to talk about mental illness at work. But managers and colleagues can support each other when it comes to mental health by talking in an open and honest manner. 

Keep reading to find out how you can talk about mental health at work, plus some conversation topics and tips.

Why Talk About Mental Health At Work?

Mental Health Stigma

While it’s not always easy to have open and honest conversations about mental health, if you feel able, by talking openly about mental health at work, you can help challenge, break down and therefore reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness and mental health.

Discussing your own mental health openly may benefit your own wellbeing. By having candid conversations about your own mental health, you may find you receive support, empathy and understanding from your colleagues.

Read More: Mental Health Stigma at work

Mental health in the workplace

For employers, there is a strong business case for an open culture around wellbeing in the workplace. This includes:

    • Reduced absenteeism and presenteeism. If a company creates a culture that takes care of its employees’ mental health, and welcomes conversations about it, there is less risk of workers needing extended periods of time off work (absenteeism) for mental health-related issues. In addition to this, when employees do show up for work, they are more likely to work productively, reducing the risk of presenteeism (where the employee attends work but their productivity is low).

    • Improved staff retention and morale. Company morale can be improved by having a more content workforce. Studies have found that employees are more likely to stay with companies that invest time and energy into their wellbeing and create a healthy work culture. This saves valuable time finding new employees and boosts your company’s reputation as an employer.

Read more: How To Prevent Absenteeism and Presenteeism In the Workplace

Mental Health Conversations

There are a number of different things you can discuss when talking about mental health at work. Two examples include:

Your Own Mental Health

If you feel comfortable, talking about your own mental health can be a great way to start the conversation. This can also help others feel comfortable talking about their own experiences. Asking questions also creates space for others to open up if they feel comfortable doing so. And if nobody feels ready to share personal experiences, simply opening up a discussion about mental health, can begin to break down the stigma.

Mental Health In the Workplace

Another great conversation topic is how you feel about mental health in the workplace. This can include things like talking about your rights as an employee, discussing any amendments that may be necessary, and sharing resources.

You can also talk about how to support someone who is experiencing a mental health issue at work. This includes things like listening without judgment, not sharing information without permission, and recognising that someone may not want to talk about their own mental health.

Many people find it helpful to remember that mental illness can be invisible and can’t always be seen by others. This can sometimes create an additional layer of stigma around the issue, which can make talking about mental health even more challenging for some.

You Might Like: How To Promote Positive Mental Health At Work

Mental Health Conversation Starters

If you’re not sure how to get the conversation started, here are a few mental health conversation starters that you can use.


    • How are you feeling today? This can be especially helpful when asking someone about their mental health and how they are actually feeling on that particular day..

    • I’m here if you need to talk. Let people know you are available for a chat any time should they ever feel like it. 

    • How was your weekend?  It can be helpful to ask someone what they did during their weekend, who they spent time with, and how they’re feeling now.

    • What are your thoughts on mental health? This can help to start a discussion about mental health and may lead to someone sharing their views on the topic which may in turn allow you to offer support on their experiences.

How To Talk About Mental Health At Work

1. Feel comfortable

Talking about your own mental health at work is a significant step, and approaching it can be complex. It takes courage to speak up and discuss this kind of personal issue. Even if you want to open up a discussion, you still may find it difficult to bring the conversation up. Take your time and choose a moment when you feel ready, not when you feel rushed or pressured.

2. Let Others Take The Lead

If someone else opens up a conversation about mental health at work, you can always ask them questions in order to feel comfortable around the subject. If they feel comfortable sharing, this can help you get a better understanding of their situation.

3. Ask Questions

Asking open-ended questions can give you more insight into others’ mental health experiences. For example, asking “What was that like for you?”.

4. Keep It Casual

You don’t have to talk about mental health in a clinical way. Keeping things informal may help others relax and feel comfortable discussing mental health, too. Try to use relatable examples.

5. Respect Confidentiality

Remember that mental health experiences are very personal and should be kept confidential. Never share information about someone else’s mental health without their permission.

6. Be Patient

It may take some people longer than others to open up about mental health, if at all. Remember that everyone has different comfort levels and preferences, particularly around talking about something as personal as mental health. Don’t let this discourage you from letting them know you are ready to listen should they want to discuss things with you..

Mental Health Conversations At Work: Safety Tips

As mental health can be a very delicate or triggering subject, conversations about mental health at work, or anywhere else, need to be conducted safely and securely. Here are a few more tips for having safe and respectful conversations about mental health:


    • Avoid Making Assumptions About Others’ Mental Health: Don’t assume that just because someone looks or acts a certain way, they do or don’t have a mental health issue. Remember that mental health can be invisible.

    • Don’t Judge Others: It’s important to remember that mental health is personal and everyone experiences it differently. Don’t be judgemental or make assumptions. Ensure you use non-judgemental listening skills when discussing mental health.

    • Be Respectful: Remember to be mindful when someone opens up to you about their mental health. Asking questions is one thing; making assumptions or giving your opinion without being asked is another.

    • Take Care of Yourself: It’s important to remember that talking about mental health – even in a safe and respectful setting – can be emotionally draining. Make sure to take care of yourself after having any conversations about mental health.

Tips For Employers

Getting the mental health conversation started in the workplace can be beneficial for both employers and employees. Investing in business mental health first aiders or employee mental health training can be a great way to reduce mental health-related costs in your business and to improve the wellbeing of your staff. Find Out More About Becoming a Mental Health First Aider here…

Tips For Employees

Does your workplace have a great company culture around mental health? Could more be done by your employer to support staff mental health? Do you or your colleagues feel the need for mental health support or training? Get the conversation started and see what you can do to help.

Looking For Expert Business Mental Health Training For Your Workplace?

At Great Minds At Work, we deliver Mental Health First Aid training courses for employees, managers and business owners. These interactive sessions give staff the tools they need to understand how mental health affects the individual, as well as their family and friends.

We offer our Mental Health First Aid Training Courses in-person, online. We are always happy to discuss your specific needs and see how we can help.

Get in touch today if you would like to find out more about our Mental Health First Aid training.