A Guide to Managing Mental Health in the Workplace
Have you ever experienced mental health issues, whether for yourself or with a loved one or a friend? Even if you haven’t been personally impacted by mental health, you no doubt know someone who has. Whether it’s something like anxiety causing difficulty in everyday life, through to a personality disorder or a condition such as bipolar which requires ongoing treatment and management; mental health is something that requires understanding and practical strategies across our society to ensure that everyone has the best possible experience.
One of the places where we spend much of our time is at work, which is why it’s so important that a holistic approach is undertaken. At Bramwell Partners we are committed to helping businesses implement human resources policies and procedures; this extends to mental health procedures.
We wanted to provide a guide for business owners who are looking for information on managing mental health in the workplace. Read on to find out more about mental health in the workplace and how successful management of mental health can be helpful for people who are experiencing mental health issues.
Bramwell Partners are here to provide support and guidance for business owners who are looking for solutions to better business management. Contact us on 07 3630 5695 to find out more about how we can help you implement mental health strategies and programs in your business.
How Common is Mental Health and How can Work Play a Role in Mental Well Being?
Mental health has been defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as the “state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”
You will likely know that mental health issues can impact anyone, no matter how successful or outwardly functional they appear. Mental health issues are common with many people suffering from a spectrum of disorders from mild anxiety through to diagnosable issues such as borderline personality disorder and others. In many cases, people suffer from mental health issues such as worry or sleeplessness, and while these issues are likely not sufficient to be diagnosable under psychological criteria for mental health, they are sufficient to cause interference with work.
It has been shown that work can be beneficial for an individual’s sense of worth and wellbeing, but when mental health issues present themselves, it can seem like a mammoth task to go to work. This leads to absenteeism and reduced work performance which has an impact on your bottom line.
When mental health is managed and treated favourably in the workplace, the benefits can be huge. This is why it’s important to provide appropriate support and treatment options through your business wherever possible, while at the same time being aware of recovery and possible mental health struggles and treating people with sensitivity, dignity, and respect.
Common Mental Health Issues
While there are many mental health issues which are common among the population, two of the most common and impactful mental health issues are depression and anxiety.
It’s common to feel sad or low from time to time, whether you have not had enough sleep or have experienced a setback in your personal life. But depression is a diagnosable condition in which these feelings of apathy, low mood and affect are prevalent and present for a long period of time; often with no apparent trigger. You do need to be diagnosed by a clinician with depression, but common signs of depression will include feelings of worthlessness, poor memory and concentration, reduced desire to engage in activities, reduced capacity for pleasure, less ability to control emotions, and reduced energy levels among others.
- Depression can often result in decreased performance at work, and a decreased desire to attend work at all
- Depression makes it difficult to want to participate in activities that have previously been pleasurable
People who do not experience depression may find it difficult to understand why a person would not want to do something ‘fun’ – but it is usually the case that a depressed person does not find any activity fun, even something that they have previously enjoyed.
Bramwell Partners Tip: when you have a friend or colleague who you suspect is experiencing depression, try not to ‘jolly’ them out of their mood – engage with them on their level, and at a pace that they are comfortable with. Compassion and understanding are important – and this means that they will not feel additional pressure to be ‘on’ or to display forced enjoyment.
In today’s fast-paced world it’s absolutely normal to feel symptoms of anxiety from time to time; a racing heart prior to a big job interview or pressure in your temples when you are running late to get the kids from school. Anxiety can actually be a helpful feeling which can assist us to be focused and alert when there’s something that we need to concentrate on. It’s when these feelings manifest at times that aren’t worthy of the feelings – such as when you feel anxious most of the time, and about things that are really minor. An anxiety disorder again does require diagnosis by a clinician, but the symptoms of anxiety are often a mix of the following:
- Feelings of worry and concern about many things, from small decisions through to larger decisions where people are often obsessive about issues
- Physical symptoms of worry such as a racing heart, muscle tension, nausea, sweating, irritability, and trouble sleeping
- Social withdrawal or avoidance, trouble making decisions and relying on others for justification and validation for decision-making
People who experience symptoms of anxiety often worry more and have their worries validated by their difficulty functioning, which is caused by their anxiety. Treating anxiety requires sensitivity, time, patience, and in some cases, medication.
Bramwell Partners Tip: If you see a co-worker who is struggling with anxiety and finding it difficult to make decisions, approach them with sensitivity and respect. Understand that they would not choose to have these difficulties if they did not have to, and seek to assist them in whatever way you can.
Managing Mental Health in Your Workplace
As a business owner, it’s important to have comprehensive human resources strategies in place which provide methods and guidance for helping those experiencing mental health issues. We are here to assist you in this process and can implement a mental health support program in your business or help you put one in place yourself. In addition to your human resources management, you need to be on the front foot when it comes to managing mental health in the workplace. This might be something as simple as connecting with your team and having a conversation with them.
Have the conversation
Heard of R U OK? This program has some exceptional tips for starting a conversation with people who may be experiencing mental health concerns. If you notice that someone has started dropping in their performance, or if a team member is absent a few days in a month, it might be worth checking in with them. Here are some tips for having a conversation with your team:
- Actively listening and not trying to jump in with a solution is a huge and vital first step to getting someone to open up. Don’t rush them through the conversation either. Often it takes a lengthy period of silence where someone will weigh up the consequence of talking. Give them room and space to make this decision to speak.
- Encourage them to talk but also be OK that they may not be ready to speak. Let them know that your door is always open and that you are accessible when they need you.
- Check in again and offer some additional support services such as your Human Resources management solutions as well as information about phone lines and websites that can help.
The bottom line is that mental health can affect anyone at any stage in their life. We want to help you treat mental health in your workplace head-on, both for your benefit and for the benefit of the wonderful people in your team. Call us on 07 3630 5695 to find out more about how Bramwell Partners can help you with your human resources management today.