Could We Have Done More?


How do you have a conversation with your team after someone on the team has a "public" mental health crisis?

Background & Context: I once had a member of my team send an email to their coworkers (so everyone that reported to their leader... about 10 people) that clearly indicated they were in crisis. People on the team were worried about the person that sent the email. The leader reached out to me, I then reached out to my leader and HR. The verdict was essentially to ask everyone to delete the email and reach out to the person that sent the message to be sure they were OK and put them in touch with EAP (turns out they were having issues with their meds). We also told the team that the person that sent the message was OK and to keep the message confidential.

I feel like I did the best I could in that situation but felt so blatantly unprepared for it and felt like our message to the team as a whole (including the person in crisis) was rather bleh. It was respectful, but uninspiring. Given the reality of neurodivergence in the world and the impact of situational mental health factors, what can we do to be better prepared to have a meaningful, supportive response that clearly reinforces (and strengthens) our practices of inclusivity and psychological safety?


It may feel as if I'm repeating myself in these columns… that's because I am. So many of the challenges faced within organizations are "people issues," which are the same issues leadership, at every level, puts off until there's a risk management concern or a crisis event. People are the most complex asset and resource at leadership's disposal, yet they are afforded the least attention and care.

We operate businesses as if ignoring our human assets will yield the same kinds of outcomes as a broken copier: "Just call the 'guy'." They won't! On any given day, folks within an organization are dealing with shit that is forced, because the expectation is, to take a backseat for hours and get to work. 

Every day, the cord that they are holding on to becomes frayed. For some, you will never know their struggles. They will mask any signs of vulnerability. You will never know that they need help. They will show up daily and leave no hint of the turmoil they are living in. This is the majority. But at times, some will find themselves with no more cord to hold on to. They will break. They will fall hard. They will just stop pretending because it's just no longer sustainable.

Embracing this reality of our humanness is a crisis event that most organizational policies, procedures, and processes are not equipped to handle with any real care and nuance due to liability concerns, so it's no wonder that your organization's response felt less than satisfying. It makes sense because there's no way to plan for every possible outcome. Still, we can work to improve how organizational interventions support the mental health of all internal stakeholders by prioritizing welcoming and psychological safety.