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Keeping it in: how to approach mental health problems within your team

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Mental health is unquestionably a susceptible subject and one that many of us find difficult to discuss – but that doesn’t mean we should avoid doing so. Indeed, we have a duty to go to every possible measure to support the well-being of friends and colleagues.

Employers, for example, will always stand to gain the best productivity, sales, and revenue results if they help to keep their staff healthy, motivated, and focused. However, how you respond to one or more members of your team showing signs of a mental health problem also says much about your organization’s broader values.

In short, great employers treat their employees well, quite apart from bottom-line considerations. Furthermore, with Personnel Today having reported that 39% of sick days in the UK can be attributed to mental health problems, these are issues that it is in everyone’s interests to address.

So, if you suspect someone on your payroll may suffer from mental health, what approach are you best advised to take? Here are some thoughts.

How can I be sure it’s truly a mental health problem?

Of course, one should never simply assume the state of a given person’s mental health. This is because we all deal with mental health issues differently, and every employee of yours who appears outwardly stressed, there may be a similarly suffering staff member who shows no outward signs at all.

Therefore, one of the very best things that you can do for your workforce’s mental health is create an environment where employees feel able to share with you anything that may be concerning them – even the most seemingly ‘mundane’ personal worries.

Nonetheless, some employees of yours may show certain clues of something having changed with them lately. Their behaviour or mood may seem different, or their work output, motivation levels and focus may have altered. They may seem tired, withdrawn, or uninterested in tasks they formerly enjoyed.

How do I even talk to someone about their mental health?

It’s understandable that, as an employer, you may fret about not being adequately qualified to try to talk to someone on your team about their mental health.

However, you don’t need to be a professional mental health therapist to have a conversation with a member of your staff that could do so much to reassure both of you. Simply the skills you use daily as a people manager – including common sense, empathy, and listening – are enough.

The mental health charity Mind has some invaluable further guidance on how to talk to one of your employees about their mental health.

Is there anything else I can do to support my staff’s well-being on an ongoing basis?

Mental health is no ‘fad’ or ‘trendy’ issue – instead, it is merely finally being given the level of recognition that it warrants, given the profound effect it has on all of our lives.

Even British Prime Minister Theresa May has spoken of the second-class status that mental health has sometimes been given in the national conversation, stating that “there is no escaping the fact that people with mental health problems are still not treated the same as if they have a physical ailment.”

However, you can also take steps to help to maintain good mental health across your workforce through the use of appropriate Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs), such as LifeWorks acclaimed employee engagement wellbeing solution.

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