By 

We have worked in the field of resilience for over 20 years. We have helped our clients understand how resilience fails, how to bounce, and how to sustain an effective integration between work and life. Dealing with our mental illness reality demands a specific, tailored response.

In 2017 we launched our first programmes to help leaders and managers increase their skill and confidence to support mental illness and recovery in their businesses. The original article is here.


Find out more about our mental health training programme options and toolkit.


Since that time we have worked with hundreds of leaders to refine and deliver a simple, cost-effective solution. The situation is more pressing:

  • Mental illness is firmly in focus at all levels of society
  • Attention disorders, isolation, anxiety and depression are common
  • Health & safety legislation demands that business pays attention
  • Work is increasingly complex, fluid, uncertain and pressured
  • People are struggling to keep key parts of their lives integrated
  • Disruption in many forms is an ever-present threat
  • Leaders very much want to learn how to lead for mental wellbeing

This is the basic course structure which can be run through workshops or our Resilience App digital training. It includes a comprehensive workbook.

Leading Mental Health Course Guide

Find out more about our mental health training programme options and toolkit.


For a quick insight into the course:

Quick Facts on Mental Illness at Work

  • $1 trillion cost to global productivity and affecting 615m
  • 50% increase in depression and anxiety (1990- 2013)
  • ROI from mental health programmes is $4+ for each $1 (npv)
  • 25% of students (13 to 18) affected by anxiety
  • Conflict, impulsive outbursts, bullying…
  • Social withdrawal disorder and autism increasing (1m/year)
  • Substance abuse has a significant mental health overlap
  • Depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, dementias…

Our conclusion is that a basic understanding of the key concepts that underpin mental illness is necessary. Further, we recommend that every leader and manager can recognise the key signs of common conditions. Let’s start with the common conditions:

1. Depression

Depression, diagnosed as unremitting sadness, loss of confidence, confusion, appetite and sleep disturbance for two weeks is the most common. Suicide takes 800,000 lives per year and depression has a massive cost to productivity. Sadness prevails and it is a form of “freeze” reaction

  • Physical signs: loss of energy, disturbed appetite, sleep disturbance
  • Emotional signs: sadness, despair, tears, joyless and loss of hope
  • Cognitive signs: confusion, self-doubt, poor memory, indecisive

2. Anxiety

Distress first presents with physical symptoms such as tension, respiratory, cardiac, abdominal or skin disorders. When overwhelmed by pressure, we experience anxiety and worry. We all feel anxiety (fear) at times. It is a “flight” reaction.

  • Distress symptoms – body, sleep, weight
  • Emotional outbursts – tears, panic, anger
  • Hyperventilation – sighing, breath-holding, mouth breathing
  • Persistent worry about the future
  • Health issues may be present
  • People may present as “not coping”

3. Hostility Disorders

Given the apparent increase in anger in society, this is an important condition. This is the “fight” response and may present as:

  • Angry outbursts, shouting, swearing and calling out others
  • Passive aggressive resistance and resentment…..

Clearly, no mental illness suddenly presents. It is almost always a process of progressive failure. It starts in the mind, progresses to emotion and only then presents as a diagnosis. Leaders who can recognise the process can intervene skilfully and prevent illness. This means being alert to overload, attention failure and withdrawal as below.

Diagram showing how resilience fails progressively

Supporting Bounce

Leaders skilled at noticing how and when resilience fails are powerfully placed to intervene and prevent risk.

For example: at Confused, simplify priorities and give people a clear goal. At Disengaged understand how to establish rhythms, breaks and rejuvenation disciplines. At Withdrawn, reach out to a person and be sincerely interested. However, a leader’s job is not to be a psychiatrist.

While a better understanding and skilful bounce reinforcement is effective, it is important to know where skilled help can be found. That may be through human resources, EAP, coaches, psychologists or medical specialists. Our experience is that many leaders do not follow up. When someone is referred to expert help it is important to know that the event actually happened, how it is followed up and preferably some measures on how things have improved.

The key disciplines of rapid, skilled bounce

Powerful Conversations

When one of your team is struggling with a mental health issue it can be unsettling. Be brave and meet with confidence. You are an important aspect of recovery.

Always be sincerely respectful. If you are concerned, reach out to someone in privacy and in a supportive environment. Sometimes simply showing your care can begin recovery.

Secondly, know your limits. Your job is not to be a psychologist. In conjunction with your people team make sure you work towards an appropriate referral.

Thirdly, be present for the recovery process. Part of the leader or manager’s job is to facilitate return to work. Let someone who needs help know that you expect them to recover and come back to work. Most people do.

We are seeing increasing distress amongst leaders who, while dealing with demanding roles, are taking perhaps too much of a supportive role with team members who may be suffering. The world of work is tough. Leaders must remain strong and resilient themselves. If we become too involved in the suffering of others we may suffer what is now termed empathic distress (compassion fatigue). The leader takes on the suffering of the team member. This will render you ineffective as a leader and will compromise both effective empathy and skilful support.

As we deal with more distress in the workplace, leaders need to step up to and take much better care of their own physical, emotional and cognitive resilience. Implementing a daily routine to support and sustain resilience is essential.

Share This