How do I manage an on-going illness of a staff member?

Most people who have on-going mental health conditions can continue to work successfully without support, or with only minimal support. It is discriminatory to make assumptions about people’s capabilities, their potential for promotion or the amount of sick leave they are likely to need, on the basis of their condition. People with mental health conditions should be treated in exactly the same way as any other member of staff unless they ask for help or demonstrate clear signs through their performance or behaviour that help is needed.

Try to enable the employee to continue to contribute to the organisation for as long as possible.

Other positive steps to take:

What are some strategies to help people cope?

Most people are encouraged to develop coping strategies as part of their care. This often involves noting signs of a possible relapse and taking action to avoid it, like cutting down on work or social activity, foregoing alcohol, or taking exercise.

How do I make adjustments in the workplace to help my employee?

Many people with physical disabilities may require physical aids or structural changes to the workplace. Similarly, people with mental health issues can require social and organisational adjustments.

These adjustments are generally changes in the way things have traditionally been done. Permitting someone with a mental illness to work flexible hours, for example, provides access to employment just as a ramp does for an individual who uses a wheelchair.

Adjustment is not preferential treatment. The fact that some of your employees may see adjustment as preferential treatment represents a challenge for some employers. Education and discussion can help wrong assumptions.

What type of adjustments can I make as an employer?

The following are some examples of potential adjustments for people with mental health issues that cover three key areas of the workplace: support, policy and attitudes.


Support strategies that respond to the specific needs of the individual employee are the most effective.


Human resource principles that are positive and constructive provide a strong foundation for adjustments.


An accepting organisational climate also provides support for adjustments.

How can I help my employees prevent stress?

You can improve your work environment to help prevent people getting stressed.

How can I improve my knowledge about mental health in the workplace?

Mental health awareness training will help you understand mental health conditions and enable managers and colleagues to support staff experiencing such difficulties. MH101 is a mental health learning programme provided by Blueprint for Learning. MH101 has been developed to give you greater confidence to recognise, relate and respond to people experiencing mental illness. For more information, go to

Who can support me as an employer?

Workwise has offices around the country that offer support to employers and to employees who have experienced mental health conditions. We have excellent success records in supporting people to return to work and in supporting them to be effective long-term employees. Many people require only minimal support once they have been given the opportunity to work.

What can I do if I’m interested in recruiting people with mental health problems?

If you are interested specifically in recruiting people with mental health problems, there are many positive steps you can take. Here are a few recruitment ideas that may relate directly to people with a mental health condition.

What about my own mental health?

There may be times when you experience distress yourself. It is important to look after your own mental health. Finding support either within your organisation or externally with friends and family can be extremely helpful towards re-establishing wellbeing.

Useful websites

Depression: This website aims to help New Zealanders recognise and understand depression. It encourages people to seek appropriate help and offers resources for health professionals treating people experiencing depression.

The Lowdown
: A partner website to Depression, The Lowdown is designed to help young New Zealanders understand and deal with depression.

Beyondblue: This Australian website aims to address issues associated with depression, anxiety and related disorders.

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