What to do if someone becomes unwell

Identifying early signs of distress:

The main thing to look for is changes in behaviour. This could be the way they perform at work, the way they look, or the way they behave.

Talking at an early stage:

If you notice any changes use your usual management procedures to identify what may be the cause.

Use open questions such as ‘how are you doing at the moment?’

If you have specific concerns, such as performance, it is important to talk about these at an early stage.

Chats should be positive and supportive, exploring issues and how you can help, and be in a private setting.

If someone gets upset, stay calm and reassure them it’s ok to be upset.

Sickness absence – keeping in touch:

It is essential to keep in touch if someone is off work to prevent miscommunication and barriers to returning. The longer someone is off the harder it is for them to return.

Agree the best contact person and suggest a time when they will contact them next. This could be by email, phone, or in person. At the end of each contact, agree the next one.

Returning to work and reasonable adjustments

Effective management will increase the chance of a successful return.

Is there anything that would make the return easier?

Comply with the Equality Act by considering and applying ‘reasonable adjustments’. Consider phased return, reduced activities, change to shift patterns or working hours, review the physical environment etc. Discuss the options available and identify ones that might work.

Be honest with things you can’t change.

What to say to other members of staff:

If time off is taken, or if adjustments are made, agree with the employee what they want others to be told.

Watch out for hostile reactions – stamp out hurtful gossip or discriminatory language.

Managing an ongoing illness

Don’t 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. Everyone is different and many people living with mental health conditions will need no support from their employers.

Advance statements

If people have a long term mental health condition, they are the best person to let you know how and when they want to be supported. Some people will have an Advance Statement (or you could help them to draw one up) which will help you to identify signs, who to contact in an emergency, and what support is helpful and what is not. This can help you to make the right decisions if you ever need to.

Professional mental health support:

Mental health problems are common with 1 in 4 of us having a mild to moderate condition at some point in our lives. For many people care and support is provided by their own GP but specialist mental health support is also available. If someone is in crisis and you are concerned about their safety, you can contact the Mental Health Response Service in Hull and East Riding on 01482 301701

We’re here to help. Call (01482) 242808 to see how we can get you back to work.

or drop us a line at


Other support

The following organisations we would recommend if you’re seeking further help and support.

Hull & East Riding Adult Mental Health Services
A service operated by Humber Teaching NHS Foundation Trust where you will be offered support.

Contact details
0800 138 0990

Samaritans provides confidential non-judgmental emotional support, 24 hours a day for people who are experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including those which could lead to suicide.

Contact details
0845 790 9090