• Leah Norman

Can you spot poor mental health in your employees?

With the stress and strain of the modern workplace, more and more of our clients are reporting experiences of being approached by their employees over mental health issues and it has highlighted that a significant proportion of these employers lack the proper training to detect signs of distress among employees.

Of a short survey put out to our client base, one in three managers are aware of mental health issues in the workplace, but only 19%, or less than one in five, feel “very confident” in their ability to support these individuals.

Despite many workplaces showing great positive movements in quality of life, inclusivity, and many other areas, it would appear that on the whole, we're falling short when it comes to knowing how we can support those struggling with their mental health.

Mental illnesses are commonly defined as conditions that impact a person’s mood, thinking, feelings, and behavior. These common mental health issues impact every area of life, from social and personal, to work and business. And if you suspect someone at work may need help with a mental health issue, it can be difficult to know what to do. When this person is also your employee, it can be even harder. Here’s everything you need to know about spotting a mental health issue in your employees and how to handle it the right way.

Mental health and mental health-related symptoms are one of the most common reasons an employee may take time off from work. The effects of a mental health issue can also keep productivity and revenue down in the workplace, as well as create unrest within the culture of the company. In addition to the effects your employee’s mental health has on the success and growth of your company, there is often also concern over your employee’s well-being that is personal and sincere. Issues with mental health can leave a person feeling stressed, tired, anxious, and more.

What to look for:

It’s important to act early if you suspect your employee is experiencing a problem with their mental health. For the sake of your business, as well as the health of the employee, early intervention is necessary. When you notice one or more of these important signs, it may be time to intervene:

  1. An unhealthy or unkempt appearance/abnormal appearance: Many people with mental health challenges find it difficult to keep up their appearance and may have poor hygiene habits, dress inappropriately at work, etc.

  2. Mood swings, emotional rollercoasters, and erratic behaviour: Even at work, mental health challenges can result in mood swings and inconsistent emotions, where there may be extreme highs and lows. Behaviours may seem strange and/or turn unusual quickly as well.

  3. Easily irritated, frustrated, or angered: The anxiety and stress associated with mental health challenges mean many people get frustrated or irritated easily. This can be noticed in how they approach projects, react to co-workers, etc.

  4. Taking or needing a lot of time off: Employers often associate mental health issues and time off with “mental health days.” While many people may just need a day off when suffering from a mental illness, these conditions can also cause a variety of additional, physical problems that require care and time away from work.

  5. Changes in eating or sleeping behaviours: People with mental health concerns may not show drastically evident symptoms, but even things like never eating at lunch, refusing to eat with co-workers, and a lack of sleep/insomnia are all possible signs of mental health challenges looming.

  6. Moments of confusion or an inability to solve a problem: If you notice your employee is having a difficult time focusing, solving problems, or is easily getting confused, it could be a sign of a mental health issue.

  7. Unnecessary fear, worry, or anxiety: Employees with mental health challenges may be paranoid about co-workers or employers, anxious about keeping their job (especially post-COVID), have fears about unnecessary things, etc. These fears and anxieties are typically beyond a normal rationale.

  8. A decrease in or lack of productivity: Whether it’s because of fatigue, lack of sleep, anxieties, or something else, mental health challenges make it hard to focus and be productive. If you find an employee’s productivity is down, it may be a symptom of a deeper, mental illness.

  9. Withdrawal from social situations, especially with co-workers: Employees who seem withdrawn from co-workers and the social culture at the company may do so as a symptom of poor mental health. Many people with mental health concerns suffer from isolation, loneliness, and self-loathing.

  10. Abuse of drugs, alcohol, or other vices: As a way to self-medicate, employees with mental health issues may turn to alcohol, drugs, food, sex, or another addiction. This is typically a more urgent sign that your employee needs help.

What to Do Next

An employee may not know that they have an issue with mental health or may be scared to talk to you as their employer about it. Mental health can also be a very personal and sensitive topic of conversation to have between employees, co-workers, and employers. But no matter the difficulty of the situation, it’s important to handle mental health with care and urgency.

Stigma around mental health

The majority (67%) of employers we spoke to believed there was a stigma, or negative connotation, surrounding mental health conditions, including stress and anxiety, in the workplace.

With so many employers still believing that mental health problems are stigmatised in the workplace, it’s plain to see that there’s a lot more to be done. Employers need to ensure that every employee (and particularly their senior or supervisory employees) receive training around mental health issues, and that this training offers knowledge that each employee can fall back on should they notice a colleague struggling or should they themselves be affected.

If you feel that your organisation could benefit from some awareness education with regards to mental heath and supporting employees in your workplace, please reach out - 0508 924 357 and one of our team will be happy to assist.

Disclaimer This article, and any information contained on our website is necessarily brief and general in nature, and should not be substituted for professional advice. You should always seek professional advice before taking any action in relation to the matters addressed.