How to safely share employees' mental health stories

December 5, 2023

Dr. Jazz Croft

Science Liaison

Unmind Product Spotlight: Calendar Reminders


Your organisation offers wellbeing support, but uptake is low. You celebrate mental health awareness days, but people don't really engage. Despite your efforts, mental health still feels like a taboo topic.

If this sounds familiar, you're not alone. Despite increasing awareness, mental health remains a heavily stigmatised topic in the workplace.

Here we cover the power of mental health stories for breaking down stigma, how we created a safe storytelling process at Unmind, and our guidance for running a similar initiative within your own organisation.

The power of storytelling

In the workplace, stigma can stop people from accessing tools to manage their mental health or seeking help when they need it.

Personal stories can break down some of these barriers, dispelling common misconceptions and offering stories of hope. It can also be empowering for those sharing their story. Approaching this in a responsible and sensitive way can promote positive community discussion that can change lives.

Developing storytelling guidance

At Unmind, we launched the Real Stories project and invited our users, both at Unmind and within our partner organisations, to share their personal mental health stories with us. But before we invited people to take part, we took the time to develop in-depth guidance for safe storytelling.

This process was led by Dr Anthony Newton, a counselling psychologist at Unmind. He brings experience from the media industry where he has consulted on safeguarding for TV productions.

"Adhering to the principles of safe storytelling not only ensures the emotional wellbeing of both storytellers and listeners but also nurtures a culture of empathy, respect and understanding." - Dr Anthony Newton, Unmind

Drawing on our expertise in clinical and counselling psychology, we upskilled teams involved in the project to make sure they could understand and prioritise safety for those sharing their stories.

Our criteria for an empowering story

All stories should:

  • Have messages of hope.
  • Empower the storyteller and the audience.
  • Consider the effect on the audience.

Managing the storytellers' experience

Before storytelling 

  • Help your storyteller prepare emotionally. Ask them to think about their own motivations and check in on their current emotional state. What are their expectations for sharing? Are they prepared for the emotional demands of telling their story and how they may feel afterwards?
  • Consider the narrative. Encourage your storyteller to think about the key points of their story that they feel could inspire others, as well as any details they might feel uncomfortable sharing and want to avoid.
  • Get informed consent. Make sure that your storyteller understands what they're agreeing to. What's the process for sharing their story? Where will it be shared? What happens if they decide they want their story to be taken down?

During storytelling

  • Check the storyteller has access to support. This could be having someone supportive like a friend or trusted colleague present. It could also include any adjustments during the filming process to make them feel supported. 
  • Consider the language you use. Language is important. The aim should be to de-stigmatise mental health issues and choose words that respectfully convey their personal experience. For more detail check out our How we talk page.

After storytelling 

  • Check in afterwards. It can help to debrief after sharing. Reach out to your storyteller to ask how they feel after the experience. Encourage them to make use of their support networks or arrange to do something nice afterwards. 
  • Share the final content and give the opportunity to feed back. Make sure the storyteller is clear on what's included in the final material (written or recorded) and give them plenty of time to consider the content and ask for changes if needed.
  • Thank your storyteller. Sharing your mental health story is a very generous thing to do. Make sure your storyteller feels appreciated and understands that their story will have an impact. As well as saying thank you, you might like to offer a small gesture such as a handwritten card or a donation to a charity of their choice.

What about trigger warnings?

Trigger warnings have become a common way to warn your audience that your content contains a sensitive or potentially triggering subject, but they can also be triggering themselves.

Our decision was to include a clear description of what the story contains, but not to use the terms 'trigger warning' or 'caution'. This gives people the opportunity to make an informed decision whether to engage with the content, while avoiding any unnecessary heightened anxiety caused by the trigger warning format.


As we embark on our storytelling journey at Unmind, we keep in mind that our words hold immense power, and by wielding that power responsibly, we can create stories that inspire, empower and connect us all.

To find out more about how psychology powers our platform, book a call with an Unminder today.