How to help those in need of mental health support

At MCG, we know that it’s not just the physical health of our employees that is important but their mental health too. As a business, it’s an area we’re constantly investing in to ensure we have a wide range of resources available to our team members.

As we approach World Mental Health Day (Sunday 10 October), it’s no secret that during the pandemic the mental health of the nation suffered. The Office for National Statistics released data earlier this year, which revealed that depression rates have doubled since the Covid-19 pandemic began, forewarning of a growing mental health crisis in the UK.

Around 1 in 5 (21%) adults experienced some form of depression in early 2021 (27 January to 7 March); this is an increase since November 2020 (19%) and more than double that observed before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic (10%).

Group HR Director for The MCG Group, Samantha Alvino, said: “It can be hard to spot the signs of mental ill-health in family, friends and colleagues, and harder still to raise the subject with them. We have a number of Mental Health First Aiders within our business, myself included, as well as Mental Health Champions. Through our training we’ve learnt signs of depression and anxiety can be tricky to spot. While each individual will display symptoms slightly differently there are common signs and symptoms that could indicate an issue.”

What are the signs of a mental health condition?

Change of behaviour

If a friend or colleague suddenly alters their routine or usual behaviour this could indicate there is something they are struggling with. If they switch their usual outgoing personality to becoming reclusive and withdrawn, or even the reverse, could signal there is a problem. Similarly at work absenteeism is an easy to spot indicator but actually ‘presenteeism’ where someone may be using work as a distraction could be a sign of mental health issues.


In a work situation, if it’s unusual that a person starts to eat lunch alone, it could be a sign of a problem. In your social circles you may notice a regular attendee of your sports team for example starts to pull away and avoid social contact, this could also be withdrawing from a Whatsapp group conversation too.

Physical Signs

When someone is struggling with their mental health you may notice changes to their physical appearance as they may start taking less care over their appearance. They may have lost or gained weight or on the extreme end of the scale you may notice signs of self-harming. You may observe changes in a colleague’s temperament or notice that they’re turning to alcohol or substances to handle their stressful or upsetting situation.

How can I help someone who is showing signs of a mental health condition?

Changes in circumstances

Significant changes in circumstances can have a big effect on someone’s mental health, look out for your colleagues/family/friends and check in with them if they’ve recently lost their job, are going through a divorce, lost someone close to them or any other significant stress. It doesn’t have to be a serious in-depth conversation, a simple check in to ask how things are will allow you to offer the opportunity for them to open up without prying too deeply.

Offering a listening ear

When someone does start to open up it’s important to listen and be patient. You don’t have to have experienced a similar situation to be able to empathise, act as a listening ear rather than feel the need to offer advice or strong opinions. Understand you’re not trying to be a counsellor; you’re offering an opportunity for support and to encourage seeking professional help if needed.

Getting professional support

It’s important to know who can help the individual you are concerned about and where you can encourage them to seek out further help. Although it’s a great support to have you as a friend to listen to their concerns, it’s important it’s escalated to professionals if needed. Suggesting they visit their GP is always a good first port of call, there are also group therapy sessions that the GP can organise.

Many places of work have an Employee Assistance Programme which can offer external confidential support for free to their employees. Enquire if your friend/family member/colleague can seek support through a channel such as this.

In a situation where someone is seriously unwell, perhaps at risk of injuring themselves, or expressing suicidal thoughts, suggest emergency GP appointments, A&E, or contact a professional helpline such as the Samaritans. If they are in immediate danger, call an ambulance.

Mental Health Crisis Helplines

If you feel you are in crisis and need to talk right now, there are many helplines staffed by trained people ready to listen. They won't judge you and could help you make sense of what you're feeling. ​​​​​​​

Samaritans - To talk about anything that is upsetting you, you can contact the Samaritans 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You can call 116 123 (free from any phone), email or visit some branches in person. You can also call the Samaritans Welsh Language Line on 0808 164 0123 (7pm–11pm every day).

SANEline - If you're experiencing a mental health problem or supporting someone else, you can call SANEline on 0300 304 7000 (4.30pm–10.30pm every day).

Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) - You can call the CALM on 0800 58 58 58 (5pm–midnight every day) if you are struggling and need to talk. Or if you prefer not to speak on the phone, you could try the CALM webchat service

The Mix - If you're under 25, you can call The Mix on 0808 808 4994 (Sunday-Friday 2pm–11pm), request support by email using this form on The Mix website or use their crisis text messenger service.

Papyrus HOPELINEUK - If you're under 35 and struggling with suicidal feelings, or concerned about a young person who might be struggling, you can call Papyrus HOPELINEUK on 0800 068 4141 (weekdays 10am-10pm, weekends 2pm-10pm and bank holidays 2pm–10pm), email or text 07786 209 697.

Nightline - If you're a student, you can look on the Nightline website to see if your university or college offers a night-time listening service. Nightline phone operators are all students too.

Switchboard – Provides information, support and referral services for lesbians, gay men, bisexual and trans people also anyone considering issues around their sexuality and/or gender identity. You can call Switchboard on 0300 330 0630 (10am–10pm every day), email or use their webchat service. Phone operators all identify as LGBT+.

C.A.L.L. - If you live in Wales, you can call the Community Advice and Listening Line (C.A.L.L.) on 0800 132 737 (open 24/7) or you can text 'help' followed by a question to 81066.

UK Directories - There are more options available on the Helplines Partnership website which provides a directory of UK helplines. Similarly, Mind's Infoline can also help you find services that can support you.

Urgent mental health helplines (England only) If you live in England, you can call a local NHS urgent mental health helpline for support during a mental health crisis. Anyone can call these helplines, at any time.

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