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Ways to Support Employees with Mental Health Problems

Ways to Support Employees with Mental Health Problems

Sadly, there are millions of people suffering from some form of mental illness. Whether from depression, chronic stress, anxiety, or burnout, when a person’s emotional well-being is off balance, it alters their ability to perform at work. A wise employer knows that if their staff isn’t doing well mentally, this will begin to impact productivity. Ultimately, the best way to support your staff and run a safe and healthy business is to provide a means of support for them when they’re going through difficult times. Here’s how:

Know What to Look For

Before you can help an employee struggling with emotional problems you must first know what signs to look out for. No one is going to be in a good mood or on their “A game” every day, so if a staff member is quiet, moody, disengaged, or distracted here and there, it could just be related to normal stresses of work and/or home life. However, if a once upbeat, social, diligent, team-playing employee suddenly displays any of the following on a consistent basis for weeks at a time, there should be cause for concern:

  • Negative outlook or pessimism
  • Isolation and silence
  • Mood swings
  • Fatigue or exhaustion
  • Poor memory
  • Lack of concentration
  • Poor decision making
  • Disheveled or unkempt appearance
  • Tardiness and unreliability
  • The appearance of being drunk, high, or sedated

What to Do About it?

Unfortunately, there’s still a big stigma surrounding mental health. For that reason, many people do not wish to speak up about what they’re going through – especially in the workplace. There is this unspoken fear that if they let an employer know what’s going on, they may be penalized for it and even lose their jobs. Though getting treatment is the best thing for them, it’s not something that can be pushed upon them. There are things you can do to show your support:

Assess the Work Environment

The problems your employee are going through may very well be from the home, but since you can’t evaluate there, it is imperative to control what you can – the workplace. What type of work environment is your staff exposed to on a regular basis? Do you have enough employees? Do you delegate tasks accordingly? Do they have the tools and resources they need to perform their jobs well? Are there open-door policies where staff are able to express themselves without fear of backlash? Are you supporting their efforts to want to learn and grow within the organization? These are areas you need to look at and make changes if necessary.

Offer Resources for Help

Should an employee come to you about their mental health problems, knowing where to send them for help is ideal. If they’re depressed and have turned to alcohol, you can recommend an inpatient drug rehab and give them information on insurance coverage. If they’ve been stressed and feel like they’re on the brink of a burnout you might refer them to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) which essentially offers confidential assistance to individuals struggling with mental health, stress, work-related issues, and more.

Reach Out

Again, your employees may not feel they can come to you about their mental health problems, but that doesn’t mean you can’t show your concern. If you noticed any of the above behaviors in an employee, ask to meet with them. Talk about what you’ve seen and ask if there’s any way you can help. Let them know that whatever they say is confidential and will not hinder their employment. Then, just listen and offer support, resources for help, or advice where you can. If they aren’t willing to speak on it, obviously, you don’t want to force it, but let them know you’re there.

Education and Awareness

Education and awareness are ideal for helping to create a safe and comfortable atmosphere for your staff to open up to you when something is going wrong. Teach your employees about mental health problems, what to look out for, places they can go for help, and even how they can help and support others that might be going through it. You can have regular health fairs, ask someone to come out and speak about mental health, or simply store informational pamphlets, brochures, guides, and books in a public area for your employees to take and read if they’d like.

As an employer, your employees’ health and safety should be a top priority to you. It is only when they are at their best that they can be the best on the job. When one of your employees is going through an especially difficult time, there are a lot of things you can do to show your support. Though these options won’t solve everything, it, at the very least, lets your staff know that there is a safe haven they can reach out to for guidance and support. When employees know management cares about their well-being, everyone succeeds.


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by Lottie Pritchard // Lottie Pritchard is a contributor to Businessing Magazine.

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.