How to open a conversation about mental health at work

a mentally-well workplace is a thriving workplace


Mental wellbeing refers to a person’s condition with regards to their emotional and psychological wellbeing. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, bounce back from setbacks, relate to others, and make choices.

Mental wellbeing can fluctuate over time along what is known as the Mental Health Continuum shown below. Both positive and negative mental wellbeing can be transient. Factors within our environment along with the internal mechanisms in our brain and body can lead to fluctuations in our wellbeing that can be temporary, fleeting or sustaining. At one end we can be thriving while at the other end we can be severely impacted. The time spent within a zone on the Continuum can vary for every individual and within individuals themselves. Labeling someone based on a past or present mental health condition (whether positive or negative) is therefore dangerous and problematic. A person labeled as ‘always happy and the laugh of the town’ can be privately suffering in silence. A person with a past issue may have had the therapy and treatment they needed to regain wellness. So, a more supportive objective for the workplace setting is to work towards ‘normalising’ the conversation around mental health overall.

Monitoring mental health in the workplace is challenging for a number of reasons. Firstly, there may be a long-held stigma surrounding mental illness and mental health issues. There may be a low level of mental-health literacy at management or other levels of the business. Mental health issues may be hidden (as is the case with an estimated 50% of cases) for fear of being ostracised or losing career status or opportunitites in the future. Asking about other people’s  mental health may feel too personal, confronting or inappropriate in a work environment. For these reasons, managers and colleagues may feel it’s easier to turn a blind eye.

While people who are suffering mental illness that severaly impacts their professional and personal life need professional care, those in the ‘coping’ or ‘thriving’ zones can still benefit from regular use of self-care tools. Using a simple, easy to understand and self-guided tool to build awareness of mental health and open the conversation can be a powerful starting point. 

“The Health Breaks Mental Health Wheel provides a non-threatening tool for both managers and employees to open-up the mental health conversation.”

Health Breaks uses a simplistic wellbeing check-in as a gateway to its app. This involves one question, ‘how are you feeling today?’. This one question provides a fleeting moment for people to actually tap into, and acknowledge, their emotions. As a more targeted approach, the Health Breaks Mental Health Wheel and surveys are tools that builds self-awareness of the main elements that influence mental wellbeing. The Mental Health Wheel explores sleep, time for relaxation, stress levels and the management of stress, meaning and purpose, relationships, work/life balance, dealing with emotions,  mood regulation, and  concentration and focus in work or study.

The Health Breaks Mind Health Wheel and range of check-in surveys allows employees time and space to sit and reflect on the areas of their life that may impact on their thoughts, feelings, responses and moods. The simple questions encourage people to explore how they feel, where changes may be needed and what options they have for self-management or professional care.

This self-exploration is an opportunity for people to reflect and determine where they are on the continuum of mental wellbeing. Even the simple act of spending time for such self-reflection is an exercise in mental wellbeing and mindfulness in itself.

It’s important to note that sometimes mental health can be self managed using strategies like rest and relaxation, and sometimes external and professional health may be crucial. If you feel that your mental wellbeing is suffering and this is beyond your control, please see your GP or talk to a counsellor. Services are also available at Beyond Blue ( and Lifeline 13 11 14

In our Health Coaching services at Health Breaks, we partner with you to make small changes you can make to optimise your mental wellbeing. We invite you to register for the Coaching Program – Mentally Well, supported by our vast mental wellness resources on and facilitated with Coaching support. 

Email Health Breaks to find out more:

Performing a daily stretch or deep breathing routine is a great way to release tension caused by stress and to slow your mind and breathing.

Even a few moments spent distracted from negative thoughts, feelings and emotions can play a part in positive self-care.

Perform this Seated Body Scan from Health Breaks app to build awareness of tension in your body and to bring a sense of calm to your day.

Author: Kristin McMaster, Director, Health Breaks – inspiring people to take a break for their mental and physical health daily