The benefits of reaching out


It’s your Monday morning meeting, and you’re already starting to sweat bullets. You have a million things you need to do, and that’s before you’ve had your morning coffee.

It’s your turn to speak. You take a breath and say, “I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed with my workload. Can anyone help me out?” The rest of the people in the room raise their hands. You breathe a sigh of relief. Thanks, guys!

The benefits of reaching out

Having a great team and manager around you can take such a weight off your mind. Whether it’s sharing the load, encouraging you in your pledge to walk to work each day, or understanding when you have personal commitments, knowing your team ‘has your back’ can make it much easier to feel safe and confident at work. This is particularly true when it comes to talking about something more personal, such as your own mental health.

Talking about mental health at work

People shouldn’t feel obliged to share their situation with their team or manager if they don’t want to – it’s an individual choice. But having colleagues and a manager who is informed can be useful if you need some assistance at work or some temporary changes to your role. And some of these adjustments can made a big difference to how you feel day-to-day, which can help improve your productivity or even reduce the amount of days you’re absent from work.

However, some people may feel their mental health issue isn’t affecting their ability to carry out your role, and they would prefer to talk about what’s happening in their personal life with their friends and family outside of work. That’s okay too. You are not legally required to tell your employer about your mental health condition, unless there’s a risk to yourself or others.

And if you speak up about mental health issues with your employer, they have a legal responsibility to maintain your privacy, make changes where possible to support you if necessary, and protect you from any discrimination on that basis in the workplace.

Help is available

While around one million Australian adults have depression in any one year, and over 2 million have anxiety, the number of people accessing treatment is quite low at around 35 percent. Far too many people battle with mental health issues on their own, even when there is a lot of help available.

For starters, Heads Up has a helpful tool to help you weigh up the pros and cons of letting your employer or team know about a mental health issue you may be facing, and some tips for how to have that conversation if that’s what you want to do.

If you’re still unsure about raising this with your team or manager, there are other avenues to help you talk through your wellbeing needs at work. This can include confidential employee assistance programs (EAP) if your work has one. There are also plenty of mental health resources freely available online and by phone from organisations such as beyondblue, SANE or Black Dog Institute which can support you to be healthier and happier at work.

For managers, these resources are also often available to help you build your skills in supporting someone with a mental health condition to stay at work, or return to work; or more simply to learn more about mental health issues that could arise one day in the people you manage.


Heads Up. Should I tell my employer? [Online; accessed Sept 2017] Available from:

RUOK. How to ask staff R U OK?: A practical guide for the workplace [Online; accessed Sept 2017] Available from: