Why training your managers in mental health is so vital

Hey there, folks!

Today, I want to talk about a crucial issue that often gets overlooked in the workplace: mental health training for managers. It’s about time we recognize the just how important it is to give our managers with the necessary skills to support employee well-being. Trust me, it’s a game-changer! And not just to give people support when they need it (although that’s obviously mega important) but because you’ll see a massive return in spending when you have a happier, more productive, more present, and less likely to leave workforce.


Let’s face it, the world isn’t getting any easier, whether caused by work or personal life, stress and mental health challenges have become all too common and even if it caused by something going on outside of work, you can bet your ass that it’ll have an impact on work at some level. Employees face mounting pressures, balancing their professional and personal lives all whilst trying to meet deadlines, standards, and pressure to perform. But this isn’t just about the employee, ever since COVID became a feature in our lives, employees are more likely to leave to go elsewhere because they value their safety, happiness and fulfilment more than ever, this means that simply paying someone isn’t enough anymore. Some folks don’t like that, but like it or not, it’s the truth.


I simply cannot overstate the importance that managers play in this role. Whether team leaders or exec level, we need to be giving managers the knowledge, confidence, and tools to do their job. I couldn’t tell you the amount of times I’ve had an employee tell me about a time they spoke to their manager about some kind of challenge going on in life only to be met with:

“I haven’t got time for this right now” (more on this point later)
“What would you like me to do about it?”
“We’re too busy”.

A study by Mental Health First Aid England found that 74% of managers are concerned for their team’s mental health but 33% of them didn’t feel equipped to sort their guys with mental health concerns. The common belief we hear is that managers don’t give a shit about mental health, but this proves that, In most cases, the opposite is true. It’s more a case of them simply not knowing how to support their staff. Admittedly, we also have the issue of them not having the time or resources to support someone else. And this is a common issue. If you have a manager who is expected to carry out their everyday tasks, firefight issues and support their teams it’s easy to see how they simply don’t feel like they can provide that support. So there’s also a lot to be said for looking at organisational layout, working practices and staffing levels but that’s a whole separate article, so for now, let’s focus on knowledge, tools and confidence.

So, why exactly is it so important to invest in mental wellbeing training for your managers?

Their health matters: A 2019 study by MORI found that 31% of managers had received a mental health-related diagnosis, compared to 26% of non-managers. Simply put, managers is often a stressful job with more pressure and can feel very lonely, especially for those closer to the top of the ladder. We also see more instances of imposter syndrome in management (though anyone at any level can experience IS). And whilst stress and imposter syndrome are not considered mental health conditions, they are often linked to them due to the symptoms being very similar – not feeling good enough, exhaustion, self-doubt etc. So by providing training, you are giving them the tools to support their own mental health and the confidence to do something about it if things aren’t great.


Early Intervention and Support: Managers who receive mental health training possess the ability to identify signs of distress or struggling employees. They can then initiate conversations, provide early intervention, and offer support. When it comes to mental health conditions, the longer it’s left unaddressed, the worse things tend to get, so the sooner we can raise the issue and address it the better the result.


A better culture: If your work culture isn’t great, everything & everyone suffers. By training your managers to understand & support mental health, you’re doing 2 things. Firstly, you’re sending a message of ‘We actually care and we’re doing something about it’. Will some people view it as ‘tick-box’ training? Of course they will. But It’ll be a lot less people thinking that than if you did nothing and people thinking that you don’t care about their wellbeing. Secondly, people want to feel like they’re walking into work that day feeling like someone has their back. In the military we called this ‘Top Cover’. Now there’s not a massive need for top cover in civilian life to require large machine guns (finance, maybe?) but the principle is the same, if something goes wrong, someone has your back.


Improved Employee Engagement: When employees feel supported and valued by their managers, their engagement and productivity skyrocket. Mental health training equips managers with the knowledge to understand the unique needs of their team members and make appropriate accommodations. By acknowledging and accommodating these needs, managers can create a more engaged and motivated workforce.


Enhanced Communication Skills: If someone starts talking to you about something you know nothing about or it makes you uncomftable, what do you do? Chances are, you avoid it. That’s understandable but also incredibly damaging to health & trust. Mental health training empowers managers with effective communication skills, enabling them to have those sensitive and difficult conversations with employees. These skills help managers provide constructive feedback, show empathy, and navigate difficult situations with tact and compassion. Strong communication lays the foundation for healthy relationships and creates closer teams with stronger bonds.


Reduced Absenteeism and Turnover: Did you know that on average in the UK sick days cost approximately £560 per employee, per year. Simply times that by the number of staff in your organisation (Warning, the outcome is pretty scary). But what about if they don’t take the sick day and instead carry on working? Well presenteeism costs 1.8x more than absenteeism. By training your managers, employees are more likely to feel support if they do need to take the time off but are less likely to need the time off in the first place. Unaddressed mental health concerns often lead to increased absenteeism and higher turnover rates. Investing in mental health training for managers can significantly reduce these issues. Managers who are adept at recognizing signs of burnout or stress can intervene early, support employees, and prevent unnecessary disruptions to productivity and morale. Or to put it very simply, if you’re working somewhere where you feel like your manager gives a shit and can support you, you’re more likely to stay working there.


Ultimately, investing in mental health training for managers is an investment in both the well-being of employees and the success of the organization. It’s an opportunity to build a resilient and supportive workplace that thrives on empathy, understanding, and collaboration. The average ROI on mental health training is 5:1. That means if you spend £10,000 on mental health & wellbeing training, your average return would be £50,000. That can increase to 11:1 with more preventative measures put in place.

My ‘Managing mental health’ workshops are by far my most popular service but the impact they have is huge for all of the reasons I’ve stated above. I’ve seen suicides prevented, staff seeing their manager in a different light and managers decide against leaving because they feel better equipped to do their job.

So, employers, let’s step up and make mental health training for managers a top priority. By doing so, we can create healthier, happier, and more productive work environments for everyone involved. Trust me, the impact will be nothing short of remarkable!


Until next time, take care of yourself, and each other.