Mental health problems - the signs to watch out for

    • Mental health problems  

      Workplace mental health issues can have all sorts of impacts – so make sure you recognise the signs to mitigate the damage, and get employees the support needed.  

      According to a survey by Business in the community, the majority of employees (77 per cent) have experienced symptoms of poor mental health1. Despite this, only a small number of employees discuss a mental health problem with their line managers.

      In fact, only 11 per cent of employees contacted their line manager for support on the most recent occasion they experienced poor mental health. Their colleagues are also unlikely to reach out to them – 86 per cent said the fear of interfering or not knowing what to do prevented them from offering help a colleague whose mental health concerned them.

      Businesses must learn to foster a culture of understanding and support so that employees are comfortable to get help earlier, and in this way businesses can mitigate risk of presenteeism and absence for mental health reasons.

      We had a chat with our own Dr Mark Winwood, Director of Psychological Services, to find out more about the effects mental health can have on a workplace.

      What should businesses look out for?

      “Fundamental changes, our emotional experience is derived from four main factors: the way we think, the way we feel – our emotions, the way we behave, and also our physical experience. They’re the four areas that are impacted by our mental wellbeing, but what employers can look for are changes in any of these areas that are impacting an individual’s performance or relationships in the workplace.

      Managers can look for changes in the employee’s attendance pattern, they can look for changes in an individual’s behaviour and attitude towards work along with their performance – we might be able to see people are using substances to manage stressed related problems, such as alcohol, cigarettes or other drugs. Using these substances will have a detrimental impact on their ability to perform in the workplace.

      They might recognise that somebody that used to be very laid-back, friendly and engaged with colleagues in the workplace is no longer contributing to team meetings, appears unhelpful and not a ‘team player’ or attending social functions – any fundamental changes in an individual can give a manager important information that might relate to their employees wellbeing .”

      How can a business offer support for workplace mental health issues?

      “If someone is not performing very well, or has changed their appearance or their attitude, we need to recognise and address it. Never assume what’s going on, but a manager’s role is to enquire about their wellbeing and, if appropriate, direct them towards support.

      Some organisations will have to rely on local NHS resources, but you can facilitate that by allowing them time off when necessary, or by allowing them to change their shifts in order to attend sessions or access support.

      You can also support your employees by encouraging them to take regular breaks and annual leave – as well as promoting healthy work and life balance’’.

      1Business in the Community (2017). October 2016 – Millions suffering in silence: Mental Health at Work

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