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How to support your team’s mental health

76% of employees expect their employers to provide mental health support — here's how you can.

By Anisah Osman Britton

Julia Néel Biz and Nicolas Merlaud are two of the four cofounders of Paris-based startup Teale, a mental health platform that provides teams with personalised care. Nicolas has been running startups for more than a decade and Julia has led strategy at companies like taxi platforms Kapten and Free Now (now merged), and they’ve both observed how mental health support is lacking in the workplace. That’s why they now dedicate their time to helping companies approach mental health holistically, focusing on prevention, personalisation and community. 

With 76% of employees expecting their employers to provide mental health support and 50% of employees experiencing mental health issues that lead to absenteeism, having a company-wide mental health framework is key to company success. In our Startup Life newsletter, Julia and Nicolas shared their top tips on how to support your team’s mental health.

Personalise your mental health support

Company mental health support needs to go beyond just offering support in emergency situations and listing therapists. Blanket support systems don’t work — people don’t take up help if it’s not explicitly created for them. You want to understand a person holistically: their background, home situation, current challenges and how they like to take on information. You can then provide different resource formats for them — maybe they need a therapist, pre-recorded information videos on how to manage stress, audio guides or group chats online or in person.

You need to collect data

To personalise support, you need data. For example, suppose someone is a new parent — data shows a new parent may be experiencing challenges like lack of sleep or trying to figure out the logistics of going back to work. HR can push specific topics and resources that may be helpful to them, like a meditation programme, access to parent support groups and one-to-one counselling.

Data can be collected via a dedicated mental health platform like Teale or Spring Health, 1:1s with managers or surveys that are regularly circulated across the organisation. Importantly, the data you collect and use around the support needed must be confidential. Employee data has to be protected and no personal data should ever get to management.

👉 Read: Burnout and bullying: Why startup workers’ mental health is so bad

Mental health policies and resources need to be iterated on — they’re not static documents. By collecting data on how employees are accessing support, the challenges they’re facing and the trends in team requirements, HR can improve how the company provides mental health help.

Access to help needs to be easy

Don’t make people ask for or prove they need help. Instead, make support readily available and self-service, ie let people help themselves to it — perhaps you have a knowledge base that lists all the resources available and how to use them, or you use a dedicated mental health platform. Make sure your employees are constantly reminded that you’re here for them and resources are available: managers can use 1:1s to reiterate what’s available and to have an open conversation about how the company can help. All-hands can be used to remind the wider team of the support available — the first slide can highlight new resources and really drive home that mental health is important to the company.

Provide low-commitment options

Another challenge is the stigma that surrounds therapy and mental health. It’s changing but it’s still there. By providing “less scary” options — a therapist may feel like too much or unnecessary to some — an employee may be more likely to access mental health support. If someone is struggling with anxiety, for example, initially offer them access to a video series that explains what anxiety is and the tools to manage it. Then, when they feel more comfortable, offer them access to a therapist to get to the root cause.

You also want to save your team time by providing curated resources like therapists — you don’t want them spending ages looking for the right support or being overwhelmed by too much choice.

Access to help should be at company scale

It shouldn’t just be reserved for senior talent — often coaching and therapy are offered to those at the top under the misconception they’re under the most pressure — or for when someone is desperate for support. Mentally healthy organisations are 2.2x more likely to be hitting their financial goals.

On the subject of… supporting your team’s mental health

🧠 Mental health initiatives at work — are they helping?

⛈️ Support your team through a crisis. Don’t just focus on the logistics of getting through a difficult period — support the mental health of your employees as they’re struggling too.

😞  What happens when CEOs are vulnerable? This French YouTube series gets senior leaders to speak openly about their struggles.

💰 Founders, are you paid enough? If not, it may be impacting your mental health.

🤔  How much do investors support their companies’ mental health? According to these founders, not much.

Anisah Osman Britton is coauthor of Sifted’s Startup Life newsletter, which comes out weekly on Wednesdays. Sign up here.

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