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Mental health is back in the spotlight. The recent cases of Prince Harry and footballer Aaron Lennon show that no one is immune to mental health issues regardless of wealth and privilege. But a stigma still surrounds people talking about their mental health. At work, a cycle of poor mental health will continue if employers don’t learn to identify and offer support to staff who show these early signs:
- Frequent absences from work
The first alarm bell of a possible mental health issue seems a difficult one to judge: staff who take frequent days off sick. But it could be that your employee doesn’t feel comfortable revealing that stress, anxiety or depression is the true reason for their absence. If your employee takes repeat days off for an on-going problem without ever providing a doctor’s note, there may be an underlying mental health issue.
- Employee morale and performance slip
People experiencing poor mental health may appear withdrawn and tired, have trouble making decisions and be emotional or irritable. It could be that the employees are afraid to take time off work because they think their employers might view their mental health issues as a weakness and an inability to do the job. With added worry that someone else could take their job, the downwards cycle of poor mental health will only continue—perhaps at a greater rate.
- High employee turnover
Employees with mental health issues may resign because they feel that cannot get better while still at work. Others may do so because they feel work causes their mental health problems. To prevent further loss of staff, employers should put in place a wellbeing strategy that focusses on building an early mental health symptoms warning system. As part of this, employers should give information to staff about support services like confidential telephone advice or counselling. So what can we learn from both Prince Harry and Aaron’s Lennon’s situations? For a start, we shouldn’t wait until a crisis happens to offer support to any employee who needs help. In spotting the signs early, employers can show employees that there‘s a safe environment for them to speak up and find a way to improve their mental wellbeing.