Spotting mental health problems in employees

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Health Assured team

30 April 2020

It’s always a good idea to be aware of how your employees are feeling. Mental health issues affect one in four people in the UK, meaning it’s likely someone who works for you is suffering.

Of course, this isn’t so easy right now. With COVID-19 looming large, a great many people are now working remotely, and the key workers who are required to attend their places of employment are understandably feeling the stresses and strains now more than ever.

Here are some warning signs to watch out for, both locally and remotely.

Physical signs

  • Low energy: commonly, people with depression feel sluggish and exhausted. Mental health issues, and the stresses and anxiety they cause, are incredibly Of course, simply feeling tired isn’t necessarily a sign of deeper issues. But if someone seems constantly fatigued, be sure to pay extra attention in case other signs become clear.
  • Sleep issues: related to the above, mental health issues often cause sleep disturbances. Insomnia is common with severe depression, for instance. Radical changes in sleeping patterns and habits are an indicator that something is wrong.
  • Appearance: people suffering with depression often stop caring so much about outward appearance. Now, people working remotely may just be lowering their standards a little, and that’s fine. But if someone is persistently unkempt, and just looks miserable, they may be having a harder time than you think.
  • Panic attacks: these are sudden and debilitating rushes of anxiety that can completely disable someone. A massively elevated heartbeat, weakness and dizziness, a sense of impending doom and severe chest pains are just a few of the signs.

Emotional signs

  • Outbursts: people under a lot of stress can sometimes ‘boil over’ in an angry outburst. While unpleasant, this is rarely out of genuine rage, more frustration at internal feelings of helplessness. These aren’t necessarily spoken—a particularly curt or aggressive email or instant message counts.
  • Distraction: when someone has a lot on their mind, then they find it hard to concentrate on their tasks here and now. Perhaps work is turning up late, or they don’t seem to be listening in team voice calls. They could also be suffering memory lapses—genuinely forgetting things that have been said and done.
  • Out of character behaviours: increased risk-taking, alcohol and drug use, or attitude changes can all indicate a growing mental health issue. Someone suffering, who doesn’t understand where to turn, can begin to lash out or self-medicate.
  • Absence: an easier one to spot. If a team member is absent more than usual—whether unauthorised, or with short-notice annual leave—they may be struggling to cope.

How can I help?

Simply looking out for the above signs is the first step on the way to helping your people. Make sure you schedule in regular catchups with people, via video or phone call, to ask how they’re doing and give them a chance to lay their feeling bare.

You’re not expected to shoulder everyone’s burdens yourself. Signposting an EAP, and taking advantage of the 24/7, 365 help and support is the best way to make sure people stay healthy, happy and productive.

If you currently don’t have an EAP in place, please call Health Assured today—we'll be more than happy to talk through your options.

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