How do I raise concerns with an employee?

It may be helpful to contact Vetlife Helpline before you approach an employee to raise concerns about their mental health.

Individuals often require encouragement to seek help for mental health problems. They may:

  • Perceive that support is of no value because it cannot change their circumstances
  • Be concerned that seeking professional help may adversely affect their career and raise issues related to their fitness to practise
  • Or believe they should be able to cope with their own problems

Worryingly, among the general population, only around one quarter of people with a disorder is receiving any treatment (McManus and others 2009).


Having the Conversation

  • Have a conversation in a neutral and private space
  • Make sure there are no interruptions. Switch off your mobile phone
  • Ask open, non-judgmental questions. For example, ‘I was wondering how you were doing?’ Don’t ask loaded questions such as ‘What is wrong with you then?’ or ‘Are you stressed or something?’
  • Describe specific reasons for your concern, avoiding accusation or blame
  • Listen empathetically. Allowing someone to talk about their feelings can bring them a better sense of clarity, perspective, resolution and control Always allow the person time to answer. Be patient
  • Don’t attempt to diagnose. You are not a doctor.  See our In A Crisis page if you think your colleague is likely to harm themselves or others
  • Demonstrate your respect for the individual
  • Try and put yourself in the other person’s shoes and see things from their perspective
  • Ask what kind of support they would most appreciate at this moment. It might feel appropriate at this stage to begin to discuss some immediate possible changes at work
  • Ensure that you offer to support them at work in any realistic way you can. Only then, suggest other possible sources of support such as their GP, an EAP if the organisation has one, Vetlife Helpline, Samaritans (who will talk with anyone in distress, not just people who are thinking about ending their life), but don’t tell them what to do
  • If they talk about self-harm, suicidal thoughts or intent, take them seriously. Around two-thirds of people who die by suicide communicated their intent to others (Cavanagh and others 2003)
  • Assure them that the conversation will remain confidential, unless they consent to you informing others
  • Afterwards, if the experience was particularly emotionally challenging for you, unburden by sharing your feelings with someone you can trust

Vetlife has been there to support me through this extremely difficult period of my life.