Complex mental health: how to help employees cope

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Health Assured team

01 September 2021

It’s estimated that 1 in 6 people every week will experience a mental health problem. That’s one, in every six people you meet, that could be struggling with their mental health. Mental health conditions—unlike physical conditions—can sometimes be hard to spot. Learning more about the types of complex mental health conditions can help you spot the signs of someone suffering.

This is a guide to some more complex mental health conditions, with tips on how you can support employees struggling.

What are complex mental health needs?

A complex mental health issue can often affect many areas of a person’s life. From work or school to relationships and leisure time. This includes people suffering from more severe forms of mental illness. These kinds of conditions need ongoing and sometimes intensive treatment to deal with, meaning they often have a greater impact on the person’s life.

It's common for people with more complex mental health needs to experience more than one mental health problem at once. This can often make their recovery even more challenging.

Types of complex mental health conditions

This list isn’t exhaustive. And that’s not to say that everyone suffering from these conditions has complex mental health needs. Mental Illnesses, like physical illnesses, can be different for everyone. But these are some of the more severe conditions that tend to bring more complex mental health needs with them:


  • Psychosis


  • Schizophrenia


  • Personality disorders


  • Bipolar disorder


  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)


  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder


These conditions tend to be lesser known than others and are often misunderstood. By learning about complex mental health conditions, we can better support people living with their effects.

How can you help employees cope with complex mental health conditions?

Don’t judge

These conditions can sometimes cause people to behave in unexpected ways you might not understand. Don’t judge the person for this. Be accepting. If the person feels accepted in the workplace, they are more likely to be at ease with the effects of their condition. Living with a complex mental health condition can be extremely difficult. Feeling accepted will make their lives and emotions easier to navigate.


Severe mental health conditions can leave people feeling isolated. Holding space for conversation is a good way to support them at work. Try not to give advice. Be present and ask questions. This gives the person a chance to reflect on their thoughts and emotions. Connecting with others and expressing our feelings can often help us overcome even the toughest of challenges.

Ask: “Is there any way I can help?”

People living with complex mental health problems might not ask for help when they are struggling. Asking someone if there’s any way you can help lets them know they are supported by the organisation. The person might not take you up on the offer straight away. But knowing that they can raise an issue if they ever need to—can be a huge help.

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