The correct way to refer employees with mental health issues

As a manager, you may be the person of trust employees suffering from mental health issues will come to see. Above all, it is essential that you listen to them attentively and refer them correctly. You can rely on written procedures and an emergency contact list for this.

No organisation is immune to mental health problems, such as stress, conflict or addiction. The mental health of your employees is therefore also your business. If you implement a well thought-out preventive approach or remain vigilant to identify the first signs, you can avoid a lot of trouble.

As a manager, you may be the person of trust employees suffering from mental health issues will come to see. It does not mean, however, that you are expected to solve those problems personally. Listening and correctly referring the person concerned if necessary are the most important rule of thumb. When it comes to referral, written procedures and an emergency contact list provide guidance. 

The reliability of written procedures

Addressing psychosocial risks structurally is not only a statutory requirement, it is also a constant challenge for every organisation. Yet, companies often adopt a wait-and-see attitude and put measures on the long finger. It’s risky, since failure to take preventive action may lead to the long-term absence of those employees.

The extent of mental health care you are going to provide for your employees is up to you. For starters, everyone in your organisation should be on the same wavelength, and know who is doing what in which situation. Written procedures offer you the necessary guidance: who do you call, when is an employee allowed go home, how do you follow up on situations...? This makes sure everyone knows how to react optimally and who is the right person to tackle the situation.

The emergency contact list: a tool for external referral

When referring someone to a professional for help, an emergency contact list is a useful tool. The list contains the contact details of various professionals in your area who can provide your employees with the necessary support. An emergency contact list for your employees features, as a minimum, the contact details of: 

  • a general practitioner;
  • a psychologist;
  • a psychiatrist;
  • a behavioural therapist;
  • the mobile crisis team in the area.

Flanders has various mobile crisis teams (MCT). You can rely on MCTs in psychiatric crises, such as a suicide threat or psychological confusion.

In addition, there are numerous general helplines that your employee can call free of charge and anonymously. Add these services to the emergency contact list as well.

  • Tele-Onthaal: a helpline and live chat service for those going through hard times. Expert volunteers help callers deal with the most diverse issues: from addiction to suicide.
  • The Zelfmoordlijn: an emergency service for anyone contemplating suicide, who knows someone with suicidal thoughts or has lost someone to suicide, or maybe is a survivor himself or herself.
  • The Druglijn: for those who have questions or problems related to alcohol, medication or drugs. Gambling, smoking or other addictions can also be discussed.
  • The Kankerlijn: the telephone helpline and online chat services of the Flemish League against Cancer are open to anyone touched by cancer, whether directly or indirectly.
  • The Holebifoon: an inclusion and information helpline for LGBT people and their relatives who need to talk about sexual orientation. Callers can either request information or tell their story.
  • The Transgender Infopunt: the Flemish reception, information and knowledge centre for people who have transgender-related questions.
  • Centrum voor algemeen welzijnswerk (CAW): the centre offers expert assistance to people with issues affecting their well-being at work. The assistance and service provided in the CAW centres ranges from information and advice about childcare to practical help, crisis intervention and counselling.
  • Rondpunt: addresses anyone who is directly or indirectly concerned by traffic accidents: victims, perpetrators, relatives, survivors, care providers, employers, etc.

First aid for mental health problems in the workplace

Physically and mentally fit employees can be deployed sustainably. The First Aid for Mental Health training session teaches you how to identify mental health issues at an early stage and tackle them efficiently. Need more information? We are happy to help: e-mail us or call us on +32 2 549 71 00.

Read all blog posts about ‘mentally fit’.