Mental illness in the workplace is a subject that most of us will have to deal with at some point. As a business owner, how do you identify mental illness, and what steps can you take to help?
One in five people in North America suffers from mental illness. It’s oftentimes misunderstood and can cause its “victims” to act odd, pessimistic, irrational, moody, paranoid, and/or sickly. As you can imagine, when one exhibits symptoms like those, it can be distracting, exhausting, and sometimes even dangerous. If the issue is ignored, productivity is bound to decrease. This means you will take a hit to your business bank account. It’s important to be able to recognize these symptoms in the people you work with and offer help in ways that make sense for your business.
Sadness, hopelessness, chronic pain, digestive issues, weight gain or loss, disinterest in hygiene, insomnia, guilt, suicidal thoughts, low energy, loss of interest in hobbies, anti-socialism, irritation, anger, numbness, addiction, absenteeism, indecisiveness or simply being distracted.
Fear, panic, distress, complaining, obsession, compulsion, substance abuse, absenteeism, flashbacks, sweating, shaking, shortness of breath, and increased heart rate.
Unrealistic sense of self-esteem, decreased sleep, change in speed and volume of voice, distraction, racing thoughts, and boosted energy. The episodes of mania are followed by bouts of depression.
Paranoia, delusions, confused speech, hallucinations, social anxiety, absenteeism and disturbing thoughts.
Each country has privacy and human right laws that play a massive role in how an employer can and should approach the subject of mental illness. Be aware of these laws before attempting to rectify the situation.
It’s important to be sensitive when gauging whether or not mental illness is the issue at your workplace. Not everyone will want to admit or share their mental health illness with you, so make sure his or her privacy is respected. In this case, sometimes subtle cues to let them know you are there to help can go a long way for a person in distress.
What else can you do to help combat mental illness in the workplace?
Find a private place to talk about the issue. Mental disorders can be shameful and embarrassing. So to help your employee feel more comfortable, keep the issue and conversation confidential.
Listen to what this person is telling you. Opening up and seeking help is often hard to do. So listening to what he or she has to say is probably the most important thing you can do.
Figure out a game plan together. Discover what your employee could benefit from, but what you can deal with, too. Offering some time off can actually prove more productive than having the employee present. For minor episodes designate a private “escape” room to help calm the person when they are overwhelmed.
Research the illness, and ask for advice from others while keeping your employee anonymous. When you know more about a disease, you are more likely to be empathetic and understanding.
Encourage the person suffering from the disease to seek health and medical help. Express to them that their family doctor can offer strategies, therapies, and medications that can completely change the quality of their lives. Changing diet, and adding exercise and meditation to the daily routine can significantly change the way a person feels and acts.
As much as a person who suffers from depression or anxiety wants to snap out of the behavior, it is simply not that easy. It’s like asking a person who has cancer to just get better. With a solution-based attitude, and respect for your employee you can do what you can to tackle the issue while helping someone in need.