As today marks World Mental Health Day, some reflections from my recent Mental Health First Aider course to help managers and HR professionals.

A large part of your role involves supporting others in the workplace. You can only do this if you look after yourself first. As a HR professional, I try and act as a role model to others through:

• Managing my working week as effectively as possible – of course there are times when deadlines mean I have to work longer days, evenings, weekends etc, however I try to make sure I have a work/life balance. This does mean I have to be self-disciplined. To do lists and weekly planners work for me – find something that suits your working style.
• Taking regular exercise – I enjoy Pilates, walking and the gym; find something that works for you. During the working day I aim to get away from my desk at lunchtime, to clear my head and get some fresh air. This helps me to be more productive in the afternoon.
• Spending time with family and friends who provide an invaluable support network. Also, stay away from negative people who can drain your energy.
• Eating healthily and getting plenty of sleep.
• Booking regular annual leave, spread throughout the year to recharge my batteries.

Secondly, know your team or the people you are working with. A lot of what we talked about on my recent course was the importance of recognising when someone is acting out of character, as this can be a sign that something is amiss.

For example, if one of your team is normally really bubbly, but comes into work after the weekend and is withdrawn, ask them if they are ok. If they are normally easy going and laid back, but are snapping at everyone, talk to them to find out what’s going on. It could be that they are just having a bad day or didn’t sleep, or it could be that something is going on at home or at work. Even if there isn’t anything wrong, they will appreciate that you have taken the time to ask.

Years ago, one of my managers asked me if I was ok as I was quiet and withdrawn that day. I was just processing something that was going on at home, and didn’t want to talk about it. The fact he had noticed that I was behaving out of character, asked me if I was ok and respected the fact I didn’t want to talk about it was enough to make feel supported and valued as a member of the team.

If someone does share with you that they are struggling with personal or work issues, or have a mental illness, explore how you can support them, but also recognise your limits. Even as a HR professional and now a Mental Health First Aider, I am not a counsellor. My role is to listen and support, and then to signpost to professional, expert support. Don’t underestimate the value of just listening – sometimes that’s all someone needs if they are struggling. There is a lot of support out there – whether it’s encouraging them to talk to friends and family, colleagues, their own GP, or accessing specialist help.

If you are looking to develop your employee wellbeing strategy – contact us on 01937 591577/07495 857525 or email

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