Many of us have metaphors for life. They help us to make sense of some of the biggest questions, triumphs, dejecting moments and day to day routines we partake in during our time on Earth.

You probably know some of these metaphors: Life is like a rollercoaster, (the idea of life having highs and lows). Life is like a garden, (the idea that you must prune the weeds and water the things that bring you joy). Or, life is like a mountain, (we go through struggle in the pursuit of being higher on the metaphorical mountain).

You probably have your own, a metaphor passed down from your parents. You probably learned and actively made this metaphor a part of your soul at a very young age. You will pass it to your own children, and so on.

Now, have you ever created a metaphor for your mental wellbeing? This will shape how you seek support, how you see others who seek support, and your attitude towards support in general. Take some time to think, what was the metaphor you were told about seeking support for mental health?

As a parent, manager, and partner, this metaphor you have absorbed into your being will flow into your actions, and shape your response to mental wellbeing. The metaphor will shape your, “accessibility,” or how other people view your openness to offering support.

Here are 5 tips to ensure you are seen as an accessible manager if or when your team feels they need to discuss their mental health with you.

  1. Be consistent. One of the biggest difficulties employees will have coming forward with a mental health issue is the fear of what the response will be. By creating a single message about your stance on mental-health support, and sticking to it in both your verbal and non-verbal actions, you are telling your employees exactly how you will react to their issues.
  2. Be the example. It is very easy as a manager to want to be sucked into the trap of the, “cool manager,” the, “funny manager,” or so on. The manager who conforms to the stigma of mental health. Actively be the example of accessibility and support to your employees. You are, after all, their leader.
  3. Never go with the “one size fits all,” method. When it comes to mental wellbeing, there is never one method to treat everyone. As a manager, tailor your support approach to each individual based on what you believe will be most effective for their individual issue. Humans are inherently different, and thus, so will be their issues.
  4. Make mental wellbeing a part of your company. Often, companies will have company wide policies to address when someone is physically ill. As a manager, you should implement the same policies when it comes to mental health. There are stigmas around mental health that keep some companies from doing this, however, if employees know the exact stances an entire company has in regards to mental health support, they will be more likely to come forward.
  5. Actively listen when someone does come forward. The easiest way to not be seen as accessible is to not listen to the first person that comes forward. This sets a trend that will make its way as a whisper around the company to others, making them feel uncomfortable in coming forward as well. When the first employee does come to you, make a solid effort to be an active listener, and provide as solid a support as you can. This will set the trend for the rest of your time as a manager.

Self-Care is the Best Care!