In anticipation of the release of Homewood Human Solutions’s upcoming “Mental Health SOS for supervisors, managers, and leaders” the following summary of information from the e-course may help you understand and take actions to deal with suspected mental health issues in your workplace.
Mental health, whether you call it well-being, emotional welfare or mental health, is key to living a fulfilling life. But many things can be happening in an employee’s personal and work life that leave them feeling down or upbeat, calm or edgy, wanting to withdraw.
Mental health problems affect the way a personal thinks, feels and behaves. When some of these feelings, thoughts, and actions become distressing, overwhelming, and/or interfere with carrying on routine activities of daily personal and work life, mental health problems can result. And, in some cases, mental health problems have existed for a long time, without any impact, but stresses and other events ‘trigger’ their reccurrence and expression.
Mental health illness is diagnosed by a doctor and is not a personal weakness.
What are the most common mental health problems?
Anxiety and depression are the most common problems with around one in ten people affected by a mixture of the two at any one time. Although anxiety and depression are common, they can be severe and long-lasting and have a big impact on an employe’s ability to get on with life.
Only 1–2% of people experience a severe mental illness, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, and have periods when they lose touch with reality. This may be experienced as hearing voices, seeing things others do not see, having unusual thoughts and beliefs, and/or feeling exceptionally energized and self-important.
Some symptoms of a mental health challenge are shared, but no two employees behave in exactly the same way when they are unwell. And because of shame and stigma, many of these same individuals live with their mental health problem without seeking help, keeping their thoughts, feelings, and concerns to themselves because of fear of colleagues and others’ reactions.
Everyone experiences variation in mood, but depression is a long lasting low mood that interferes with the ability to function, feel pleasure, or take an interest in things. It is not a sign of personal weakness or a phase that can be willed away but a condition that needs treatment to reduce symptoms.
Depression affects anyone of any age, including young children. It is one of the most common mental illnesses. More than 15 out of every 100 people will experience an episode of depression during their life. (note, however, these figures are based on people who actually seek help, and there will be more who remain undiagnosed). Women are diagnosed with depression more than men but this could be due to the fact that women are more likely to seek help.
Symptoms of depression
Not everyone who is depressed will experience every symptom, and no one symptom is indicative of depression. Some of the most common symptoms are:
- Persistent low mood, feeling sad
- Reduced energy, decreased activity
- Loss of interest and enjoyment in pleasurable activities
- Loss of concentration
- Tiredness after little activity
- Sleeping and eating less (although this can sometimes increase)
- Low confidence
- Loss of interest in work
- Difficulty learning new information or concentrating
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Loss of sex drive
- Suicidal thoughts and acts
Anxiety, worry and fear are feelings that everyone experiences now and again. They can be useful emotions, helping us to be aware of risks and respond to challenging or dangerous situations. They prepare the body to take action to protect itself (the so-called ‘fight or flight’ response).
However, those individuals challenged by an anxiety disorder experience anxiety, worry, fear or panic at a greater level than is normal. The anxiety can be caused by specific situations or it can be present constantly. Anxiety disorders are generally more common in women than in men, but this can vary depending on the type of condition.
- An anxiety disorder is diagnosed when someone feels anxious all, or a lot of the time for no logical reason to the extent that this impacts everyday life.
- Obsessive compulsive disorder, panic attacks (sudden onset of fear, a sense of dying), post-traumatic stress disorder, and specific phobias are examples of anxiety disorders.
- Anxiety disorders can cause both physical and psychological symptoms.
- Anxiety Disorders are some of the most common mental health problems.
Some of the most common symptoms of anxiety disorders include:
- Appearing pale and tense
- Being easily startled by everyday sounds
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Avoiding certain situations
- Feeling constantly irritable or worried
- Difficulties sleeping
- Feelings of dread or impending doom
- Heart palpitations
- Heavy and rapid breathing
- Stomach aches and sickness (especially in young children)
Many people feel one or more of these at one time or another, but people with anxiety disorders experience them more frequently and to the extent that they interfere with their lives. Which symptoms and how severely they are experienced will be different for each disorder and person.
How can you help?
When a colleague tells you they have a mental health problem, becomes distressed or starts behaving out of character, it can be very confusing. It may distress you, too. Knowing how to respond can be difficult and it can seem easier to ignore the situation than to try to provide support. But providing support at work can make a huge difference to someone’s life.
The most important thing you can do is treat this person with respect and dignity. Talking with your colleague is the first step towards finding out how they would like you to support them.
- It’s good to talk. It takes a tremendous amount of courage for a person to discuss how they feel and they may feel ashamed to ‘admit’ their mental health challenges. Be open and tell them that you care. Let your colleague know that you are there if they want to talk.
- Allow your colleague to share as much or little as they want to, do not pry If you have questions that would help you understand what they are going through, tell them that they don’t have to answer if this make them feel uncomfortable.
- Make it clear that you don’t blame them for their problems. Do not make judgements.
- Do not diagnose someone or second guess their feelings.
- Ask open-ended questions (e.g. “tell me how you are feeling?” not “I see you aren’t feeling well, you seem low and sad.”). Don’t ask too many questions at once.
- Keep your language neutral.
- Reassure them your conversation is private and will not be shared with others if they do not want.
- Ask them how they would you to help them.
- Ask if there is anything that the person find helps them cope if you can help them with this.
- Encourage them to get professional help.
- If you are aware that a colleague has self-harmed, make sure they get the support and the first aid they need.
What you can do as a manager
Managers often find it difficult to deal with someone they think has a mental health problem, particularly if the person or they themselves are reluctant to talk about it. But it’s important to talk.
- After you have arranged for modified work duties and have had initial conversations with your employee about their situation, arrange regular follow-up meetings to check how they are coping and whether further changes to working arrangements are needed.
- A phased return to work can be helpful, with someone working a few hours a day and building back up to working their contracted hours. If you’re unsure what is reasonable, ask for advice from your HR manager or occupational health advisor.
How can we help?
The Healthy Workplaces blog is brought to you by Homewood Human Solutions. We are part of Schlegel Health Care, a family-owned health care organization with a focus on mental health and addictions, employee and family assistance, disability management, and long-term care for older adults. How can we help?
Nationwide EFAP and Disability Programs
Homewood Human Solutions™ offers a one-of-a-kind approach to the market: the highest quality of clinical support and intervention available within the EFAP industry, and an unmatched continuum of services — spanning health promotion, mental health and addictions treatment, and prevention-focused work-life counselling services.
Effective disability management for mental illness must go beyond “managing” disability to include both inpatient and outpatient treatment. Treatment goals must incorporate strategies for successful work reintegration to minimize recurrence and relapse.
The Homewood Disability Treatment Program (HDTP) combines the services available through the Homewood Health Centre – a nationally recognized mental health and addiction treatment centre with the best national network of skilled mental health and addiction treatment professionals through Homewood Human SolutionsTM.
Nationally recognized mental health and addiction facilities
Homewood Health Centre is Canada’s unsurpassed medical leader in addiction and mental health treatment, providing highly specialized psychiatric services to all Canadians. We are a 312-bed, Schedule 1 facility under the Ontario Mental Health Act. We operate nine programs treating a range of mental health and addiction issues.
Homewood Health Centre is located in Guelph, Ontario.
Continuum of care facilities for older adults (long-term care and retirement homes)
Schlegel Villages are designed, built and managed by the Schlegel family of Kitchener, Ontario. Our motto: “It Takes a Village to Care” lives on.
Canadian owned and operated, our Villages benefit from the Schlegel family having over 40 years of direct experience co-owning, managing and operating Long Term Care and Retirement Communities in Ontario. There are eleven Schlegel Villages housing approximately 2500 seniors. Each Village has a Long Term Care component, with Full Service Retirement Living, Assisted Care, Memory Care and Independent Living options being added in stages. The first Schlegel Village opened in 1998 in Guelph.
Have you visited our Pinterest site? We have many, many more infographics to peruse. Have a look here!
We’re on Google Plus!
NOTE: The content and opinions offered in Healthy Workplaces blog posts do not necessarily reflect the formal stance of Homewood Human Solutions, unless otherwise identified. We bring this information forward in the interests of openly sharing valued information in this time of fast-growing online conversations and knowledge.