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How to Recognise Mental Health Issues in the Workplace
Posted by David Cant on June 12, 2014

The Mental health FoundationMental Health in the Workplace and how YOU can help!

It might not be talked about as much as back problems.  But mental health issues can cause just as much staff turnover, absences from work and reduced productivity.

And as big a hit to your bottom line.

It pays to pay attention and simply to know what these issues are.  Plus how to deal with them for a happier, healthier, more productive workforce.

How Big’s This Problem – Really?

Mental health issues are huge; don’t forget this includes work-related stress.  The figures speak loudest.

Just under 3 out of every 10 employees in the UK have a mental health-related problem in any given year, according to a study by the Mental Health Foundation.  Most are disorders related to anxiety or depression.

The cost to England alone is over £105 billion.  And they lose the UK economy a whopping 91 million days of work per year.

You can see why it’s worth investing in strategies to recognize and deal with excess stress, depression and other mental issues in your workplace.

Spotting the 10 Strongest Signs of Mental Health Issues

When you start seeing any of these 10 signs, it may well be because of increasing stress and more serious mental factors.

And it’s time to take steps to help your employees and the whole work environment;

  1. Performances are becoming poorer
  2. There are more frequent reports of backaches and headaches
  3. Unexplained absences and sick leave are going up
  4. People are pulling back from social involvement
  5. Time-keeping is going downhill
  6. The energy is low, and people are getting tired constantly
  7. Alcohol and caffeine consumption is going up
  8. You’re seeing unusual levels of emotion; anger, irritability, sadness or teariness
  9. Employees are leaving more frequently
  10. Complaints are on the up

When you see the signs, you can take action in two main ways.

The first and foremost is cutting off the problems at the source by understanding them and what causes them.  The second is helping individuals to overcome their problems.

As early as possible.

What Causes the Problems?

Stress in itself isn’t a bad thing in moderation, but when it goes into excess and is kept there, it leads to exhaustion and impaired judgment, fatigue, and the more serious mental and physical health problems.

If you look out for stress-causing factors and pinch them in the bud nice and early, you’ll be able to stop any flow of serious longer-term problems.

To start thinking about it, here are ten of the biggest stress-creators at work.  You can see how some are easy to begin to tackle, while others will require more thought and careful strategy;

  • Low pay
  • Impossible deadlines and too high a workload
  • No variety of tasks
  • Bad working conditions; noise, heat, overcrowding, etc.
  • Skills underutilized
  • Not enough challenges; workload too low
  • High uncertainty; because of job insecurity, lack of clear roles and job responsibilities, no clear targets and priorities
  • Not feeling valued socially in the workplace
  • Poor support from management and colleagues
  • Low feeling of control over work tasks

And of course it’s usually a combination of many.  It should be an ongoing job to reduce all of the above.

Intervening and Supporting Individuals

The delicate matter of helping any individual workers you see experiencing stress or any other mental health issue is best done as early as possible.

The vast majority, when caught early, will make a full recovery.

Encourage them to seek help, and make them feel understood and supported.  If you don’t have a workplace programme or service in place, they could get help through their GP.  Getting them access to professional counseling is generally the most effective thing you can do.

And of course, remove the cause of stress for those individuals.

For a more detailed action plan the Mental Health Foundation has an excellent guide you can read here

And we’re always happy to talk and give guidance!

Have you experienced dealing with mental health issues in your workplace?

Or perhaps you have a situation right now you’re not sure how to deal with.

Comment below now and let us know!  We’d love to discuss it.


Director at Veritas Consulting. The SME's favourite go-to consultant for health and safety know-how. Bucket loads of experience. Fluent in practical advice. Solutionist with a brain you can pick.

You can find him across Social media - Twitter and Facebook also Linkedin

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