Home   Business   Let’s talk about it…

Let’s talk about it…

“Be Kind, for Everyone You Meet is Fighting a Hard Battle” ~ source unknown

This summer, like the majority of the world, I was both shocked and saddened to hear that Robin Williams, the outstanding actor and comedian, had taken his own life.

One of the discussions triggered by the news of Robin’s death was the wider issue of mental health. It was unfortunate, to say the least, to hear a few insensitive and ill-informed comments about Robin: ‘he had everything that he needed’, ‘he had all the money, why would he take his life?’

From what we know about mental health, it does not discriminate – it is an illness; it covers a wide spectrum, including anxiety/stress as well as severe depression.

The statistic from Mind UK is that, at any given time, one in six employees is suffering from a mental illness.

Therefore, even within a small Early Years setting, there could be a member of staff who is suffering in silence.

A few years ago, my awareness of mental health was heightened when a close friend came within inches of taking her own life. For me it was helpful to find out as much as possible, to try to understand and support as best as I could. Thankfully, my friend is now doing fine both physically and emotionally. However, there are many who are not so lucky: my brother’s friend, aged 19, and when I was at school my friend’s mum, leaving behind four young children.

I do believe we need to do more as a sector in supporting staff with mental health issues. During my training and consultancy I have sometimes observed staff who are ‘struggling in silence.’

We know that within the EYFS there is a focus on one-on-one supervision, where line managers should have a duty to discuss well-being, emotional intelligence and maturity. However, this only scratches the surface; if the employee is suffering with a mental illness, professional support is needed. Equally, to keep the boundaries clear, managers shouldn’t take on the roll of ‘counsellor’ even if they are trained to do so. Instead, they should know where they can sign post staff to.

I would like to see the Department for Education raising awareness of mental health and working with mental health organisations, mental health drugs, as well as providing professional development for all levels of staff on the range of mental health issues and sharing resources and names of organisations that can support employees with mental health issues.

The cliché is that if one has a broken arm, one gets sympathy, but not if one has a mental illness, which can’t be seen from the outside. More often than not the individual hides or masks the problem by taking time off work with another illness such as the flu, so not to bring attention to themselves or their mental illness and the stigma that is still attached to mental health.

It is even more important that we support staff in this sensitive area, especially as they are role models to children – children are highly skilled at picking up conscious and unconscious emotions from staff.

Every child matters, so does every member of staff!

If you need someone to talk to please contact the Samaritans, there is someone at the end of the telephone line 24 hours, 365 days of the year: 08457 90 90 90:  www.samaritans.org

The charity Mind has useful advice, information and guidance for employers and employees:


By discussing we can make changes and make a difference – to so many.

For my next Supervision course, please click on this link:

robin williams for blog


Follow the conversation on:

Twitter: @IamLauraHenry

Facebook: @LauraHenryConsultancy

Instagram: @LauraHenryConsultancy




  • Penny Webb

    Thank you for raising this important issue Laura – one that is close to my heart. As some one who has suffered depression, and someone who has a daughter who used to self harm, I know from experience that many people do not really understand mental health issues and that we still comments like the ones you mention, and they thought that people ‘just need to pull themselves together’

    Mental health is a very complex issue and people do need to have a greater understanding – and a greater sensitivity to people who have mental health issues.

    I also have diabetes – another difficult to understand condition because like mental health is often not visible until it is too late – ie something major is happening. However, in my experience it is far easier to talk about diabetes than it is talk about mental health issues.

    I do try to raise awareness of mental health issues and in particular depression – and have recently been very proactive within the childminding sector concerning a case where Ofsted wanted a childminder to either ask her own 16 yr old to leave the family home due to her mental health issues, or to resign fom childminding.

    In this case – it was finally agree the child could remain living at home, and the childminder remain a childminder – but not without a lot of stress for everyone involved.

    You are so right – we all need to talk about it

  • Vicky

    Well written Laura!

  • Louise

    So glad to hear this raised, it is very close to my heart. A very close friend suffered in silence for many years,. Because she didn’t look ill she was denied support for years. Thankfully someone reached out and got her all the support needed to help her get to where she is today.
    I do agree this needs to be talked about more and more support offered.

  • Paul

    To often this area is overlooked and it’s vital as Early Years Practitioners we look after our own Mental Health……….and that of colleagues

  • linda K

    Great blog Laura, so very real and yet not a topic people choose to discuss. Effective Supervision meetings are a perfect way for both leaders/managers and staff to approach this sensitive area. Definitely needs more support from the wider EY sector 🙂

  • Alison Cole

    Thanks Laura,

    We are in the process of reviewing/re-modelling our approach to supervision and broadening the objectives to include more coaching but these issues have been brought to light and it is an important area where we need training to spot the signs and a robust referral system to get the right support for staff.

    Best wishes,


    • Laura Henry

      Thank you Alison, for commenting. Yes, it is important for managers to reflect on supervision and the well-being of staff.

  • daljit grewal

    Hi laura i also suffered depression its hard cause you pretend & act fake infront of family & friends. It has taken me 20years 2 talk about my past & want i suffered, so gald more people are sharing & talking about depression.Thank you.

    • Laura Henry

      Thank you Daljit, for taking the time to share your personal story. Raising awareness is one way of breaking down the stigma attached to mental illness.

  • Jane Medici

    Thank you Laura, I am afraid that it will be some time before employers, family and other unaffected individuals fully support or understand people affected by depression and other mental health issues. So often there are very clear indicators in an affected persons changed behaviour, loss of confidence and increased anxieties. This doesn’t even touch on the very obvious physical signs such as change in weight, change in activity levels and ability to engage in activities and the world around them in their usual way. In spite of so many clear indicators few people ever consider offering support or take the time to go beyond social politeness. It is true that the stigma associated with mental illness make many choose to ignore it rather than risk ‘bad manners’. I believe it is more than concern over the stigma of mental illness – there is unfortunately little inclination for anyone to become involved, firstly they genuinely are oblivious to the problem and secondly even if they have a passing concern about someone they do not have enough personal concern, sense of responsibility or confidence to do something about it.

  • Cheryl Bennett

    Thank you a very interesting read . This blog really made me question my own practice . I work in a very low waged job and apart from the fact I’m passionate about teaching and learning our very young children of today and citizens of tomorrow , I am fortunate to have a fantastic manager and team that always greet each other and make time to say how are you ? Listen and respond . It’s a healthy release and a time to recognise in an informal context when your colleagues may need support . Having a warm open door policy to our parents very much helps us to build relationships with parents and find ways we can offer support through listening and signposting . Looking after the physical and emotional well being of all people and young people we come in to contact with should be a genuine priority . After all what impacts those directly caring for children or living with children impacts on them and their view of the world . We are so fortunate to have. A committed , warm and responsive team and it all comes from the top JL . Feeling blessed!

  • Pingback: Why is empathy becoming a vital competency for leaders? - Tracy Seed

  • Tracy Seed

    I thought you might like to see my blog Laura, I have made reference to yours in it too.. I’d love to know what you think and others too..

  • Tracy Seed

    oops I forgot to post it!
    I hope you find it interesting issues around the well-being of staff, professional boundaries and empathic communication in leadership are extremely important

    • Laura Henry

      Tracy, thank you so much for writing about this important subject. I will share on my travels and via social media.

  • Lorna Taylor

    Insightful, informative and honest article Laura, well done. Staff well-being is so important for individuals, their employers and children in their care. I think Cheryl’s comments above are simply superb, what a wonderful place to work, effective leadership is essential. It would be great to pool everyone’s resources to more effectively tackle staff well-being in early years/education sector. There are some fantastic initiates and ideas our there but perhaps we would be more effective as a ” staff well-being team”?.
    Would just like to share what I feel is a poignant quote from Dame Carol Black at the launch of “Healthy Teachers, Higher Marks?” paper earlier this month. “We know that from research that whatever you are producing, whether that is machinery or healthcare, your product depends on the people who work for you. The product in education is the performance and education of children, therefore having your teachers healthy and well, both mentally and physically, is crucial”.
    Take care and keep up your wonderful work!

  • Paola

    Great article Laura.
    Recently one member of my staff was suffering from depression. It was to hard and sad to see how he suffured. I tried my best supporting him but as you say I couldn’t not be a counsellor so at the end he decided to left the nursery as he was aware of his role as an early years educator . BTW the NHS didn’t offer the rigth support. He was given an appointment after 3 months!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.