HR's Role In Managing Employee Mental Health In The Workplace

HR's Role In Managing Employee Mental Health In The Workplace

It isn’t uncommon to see HR departments filling the gaps in organizations by performing all the small and large tasks that don’t fit anywhere else. For example, when accounting is unable to handle payroll, HR takes over; when there is no legal team on-site, HR verifies compliance and other regulatory concerns. However, with the rise in importance of mental health, one of the most crucial roles HR plays today within an organization is employee wellbeing. In a successful, flourishing organization, human resource management and mental health go hand in hand.


But before we get into that, let’s understand what we’re dealing with here.

Understanding mental health:

Issues related to mental health can be one of the most debilitating ailments and can go undetected with tragic consequences. A mental disorder, to be specific, is characterized by a clinically significant disturbance in an individual’s cognition, emotional regulation, or behavior.


According to the World Health Organization, in 2019, 1 in every 8 people, or 970 million people around the world were living with a mental disorder, with anxiety and depressive disorders being the most common. In 2020, this number rose significantly because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

When we shift focus to mental health in the workplace, the situation isn’t any different.

Working conditions and environment can have a significant impact on mental health, and in turn, someone's mental health can also impact their ability to perform optimally at work.


How does Human Resources help?


It is important to note that HR professionals aren’t trained psychiatrists, and many of them lack experience in true counseling or therapy. So, if HR workers are supposed to help employees through challenges and address mental health, how can they do that?


To answer that question, here are a few points for HR professionals to understand their responsibilities when it comes to managing mental health in the workplace:


1. Understand and educate yourself

Before addressing these challenges at work, HR professionals must educate themselves and understand what they are dealing with. For this very purpose, many HR resource providers offer white papers, seminars, and other similar learning tools. Human Resource professionals can also earn a Master's degree in Mental Health Counseling online, which improves their understanding of mental illness and their ability to help employees and provides a path to a new career. At the very least, they should be aware of the employment laws governing mental illness.


2. Address the stigma around mental health

The stigma associated with mental illness is a major roadblock for many employees suffering from mental illness and other mental health concerns. When a workplace accepts the reality of mental health conditions and helps employees find treatment, more employees might feel comfortable to speak up about their problems.

Inviting mental health professionals to speak about the importance of mental health, educating employees on how they can seek help, and also dispelling the myths around mental health, can help to create a much safer environment for people who are struggling. Educating the workforce about non-judgmental phrasing also plays another crucial role in reducing stigma.


3. Provide comprehensive mental health resources



Even though there is a lot of information available online, it's critical to remember that only professionals can treat and diagnose mental health disorders. The HR department can help by looking into various EAP options and mental health resources available and implement what fits the employee needs. The Wysa app provides various options including self care tools and coaching, as not everyone can benefit from the same type of support platforms available. It can also help educate management and senior leadership on how to manage employees that are struggling with mental health issues and addressing the topic in general.


4. Encourage flexibility 

Sometimes there are indirect ways to improve employee mental health and encouraging flexibility in the workplace is one of them. Allowing for flexible work hours, the ability to work from home, and other flexible working options can boost employee productivity and reduce stress. Return to Work programs are also a great way to ease someone back into their routine if they’ve had to take some time for their health.


5. Regular check-ins with employees

One can never force employees to talk about their mental health struggles. HR departments can instead maintain an open line of communication and offer one on ones if an employee wishes to talk about anything. Another way to do this is by online pulse surveys. As the term “pulse” suggests, this survey is carried out to continuously gain employees' views on subjects such as communication and relationships, job-related roles, and the overall work environment. This can help build trust for employees and helps in building a non judgmental and safe work environment.


6. Offer employee benefits

Adding to the benefits packages with mental health services such as free counseling or therapy sessions is an excellent way to promote awareness and provide help. This additional offering may make a significant difference for employees who may not have access or can afford these services. If this is possible within an organization, the HR professional must also make sure that everyone is aware of it and encourage employees to sign up if needed. Offering other benefits such as yoga, online meditation sessions etc. can also benefit employee mental health.


7. Practice empathy

One way to help someone dealing with mental health challenges is just by listening, even if you don’t completely understand what they are going through. Being empathetic and offering non judgmental advice can encourage employees to open up more or seek help.



Human resource professionals may not be able to solve everyone’s mental health issues, but they are in a position to offer help in the workplace in ways listed above. Besides raising awareness and cultivating a safe work environment, HR can also encourage employees to seek help if they feel ready by offering mental health resources. 

Editorial Team
This article was written by Editorial a Consultant at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd

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