Mental illnesses are defined as conditions that impact a person’s mood, thinking, feelings, and behavior. And though it may be hard to talk about for some, an estimated 54 million Americans experience symptoms (and side effects) related to mental health issues every year. 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.
10 Serious Signs Your Employee Has a Mental Health Issue
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.
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:
- An unhealthy or unkempt appearance/abnormal appearance: Many people with mental health issues find it difficult to keep up their appearance and may have poor hygiene habits, dress inappropriately at work, etc.
- Mood swings, emotional rollercoasters, and erratic behavior: Even at work, mental health problems can result in mood swings and inconsistent emotions, where there may be extreme highs and lows. Behaviors may seem strange and/or turn unusual quickly as well.
- Easily irritated, frustrated, or angered: The anxiety and stress associated with mental health problems mean many people get frustrated or irritated easily. This can be noticed in how they approach projects, react to co-workers, etc.
- 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.
- Changes in eating or sleeping behaviors: 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 serious signs of mental health issues looming.
- 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.
- Unnecessary fear, worry, or anxiety: Employees with mental health problems may be paranoid about co-workers or employers, anxious about keeping their job, have fears about unnecessary things, etc. These fears and anxieties are typically beyond a normal rationale.
- A decrease in or lack of productivity: Whether it’s because of fatigue, lack of sleep, anxieties, or something else, mental health issues 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.
- 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 mental illness. Many people with mental health concerns suffer from isolation, loneliness, and self-loathing.
- 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 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.
How You Can Help
Before you approach the employee, you’ll need to have a plan first. Whether you consult your human resources department, corporate department, etc., it’s important to gather opinions of experts before doing anything rash. As a boss, you must have a plan for the benefit of your company, but the employee as well.
Mental health concerns are unlike other performance-related issues and therefore, the approach must be different. You must be empathetic to their concerns, issues, and personal problems. It is important to remember that for most people suffering from a mental health issue, it is not their choice to feel this way and if given the choice, their mental health issue would not impact their work life. Never discriminate against someone with a mental illness and be sure to have your conversation in private. Express your concerns by asking your employee if there is anything going on that is making work troublesome for him or her. It’s essential to provide your employee with space and freedom to express themselves and speak openly. Great!
The next steps are dependent on the meeting and conversation you have with your employee. As the employee, you must allow them the opportunity to seek help if they are willing. This can be done via health insurance coverage, employee assistance programs, paid time-off, etc.
How Your Employee Can Find Help
Employees who are not already receiving help or treatment can receive an evaluation from a physician through most medical insurance programs. Most health insurance programs also provide types of coverage for mental health-related prescriptions, treatments, therapies, and more. It is essential for all employees with mental health issues to speak to their human resources department about their work-provided options and benefits.
Being alert, educated, and sympathetic to your employees is what matters most when it comes to mental health. Though it can be hard to speak up, finding your employee the help they need can be what’s best for them and your business. For more guidance on mental health issues, contact our professional staff at Discovery Mood and Anxiety Program today!