Worrying about someone’s mental health is a much more complex issue that physical health. If someone has injured themselves playing sport it is relatively easy to provide support and accommodate the injury. Unfortunately, by it’s very definition mental health is invisible – harder to spot and trickier to support. And yet, just like physical health, everyone has mental health: sometimes it is good and other times it simply isn’t.
Spotting the signs of ill mental health is difficult, and addressing them is harder. If you recognise the following signs in one or more of your employees, it might be time to be worried about their mental health.
Changes in physical appearance. Is your colleague arriving to work wearing the same clothes as the day before? Are they normally very well put together? Sudden changes in physical appearance can be an indication that they are struggling to cope.
Mood swings. Mental illness is normally associated with a lack of emotional control. If your colleague is unable to deal with the little things, or has become overly aggressive, it might be time to take them aside for a chat.
Increased sick days and absenteeism. If an employee has started taking more time off work with little to no reason, it might be a sign of poor mental health. Further, physical aches and pains, as well as excess fatigue can be signs associated with depression and anxiety.
Changes in personality. Dramatic personality changes can indicate poor mental health. Increased nervousness, irritability or tension are all behaviours to look out for.
If someone is unwell or experiencing mental distress, it is important to keep reaching out. Some mental health problems can result in a withdrawal from the social sphere, which makes it all the more difficult to reach out.
It may seem that they withdraw from you as a colleague and friend, but it is important to understand that mental illness does not discriminate. Someone struggling with mental health may be defensive simply because they are in pain. Give them the space they need, but be sure that they know how to contact you. Sometimes the consequences of not reaching out enough are much worse than overstepping in genuine concern.
What is worth remembering is the importance of clinically led support. Just like a broken leg, mental health can only truly be rectified with professional support. Intervention should ideally come from expert therapy, supported in day-to-day life by a solid network of friends, family and colleagues.
If an employee or colleague is struggling, remind them of the support available. The pandemic has been a tough time for everyone, and there has never been a better time for joined-up, clinically led mental health support.