We’ve all struggled from time to time. Equally, we all get lost in our personal and professional issues, which can mean that we overlook the struggles of our team members, colleagues, employees and friends.

Mental health awareness was elevated during the pandemic, with more and more companies providing mental health support during the turbulent time. With the pandemic firmly in the rear-view mirror and conversations about mental health no longer high on the agenda, here’s a refresher of the signs to look out for in your employees:

  1. Abnormal changes in appearance: Many people suffering from mental health issues struggle with their basic hygiene and personal care routine. You may notice your colleague is displaying poor hygiene habits or is dressing inappropriately at work.

  2. Erratic behaviour: All jobs come with their own stressors, however if an employee is suddenly struggling to cope without any real changes to their day to day, or is displaying inconsistent emotions with extreme highs and lows, they may be struggling with their mental health.

  1. Easily triggered: The stress associated with mental health issues can mean that an employee is getting agitated or frustrated more easily than is the norm for him/her. You can observe this behaviour from how an employee approaches tasks, especially those that are not new or especially challenging for the person.

  1. Changes in eating habits: Have you noticed a stark change in your employee’s eating habits? Perhaps they are not stopping for lunch as they used to, or on the flipside, they are continuously eating throughout the entire workday. Such behavioural changes can be a sign that mental health issues are looming.

  1. Changes in sleeping behaviour: Similarly to point 4, notable changes to colleagues’ sleeping patterns can also indicate issues with mental health. You may notice an employee complaining that they haven’t been able to sleep well for some time, something you would probably notice from their appearance and behaviour. At the other end of the spectrum, falling asleep at your desk and constantly looking to sleep can also be a sign of mental health issues.

  1. Low productivity: Mental health issues make it extremely difficult to focus. Whether the issues are manifesting in sleep issues, emotional issues, changing eating habits or any other fundamentals that make up a person, this can, and often does, lead to serious difficulties in focusing.

  1. Avoiding social situations: Have you noticed that a colleague suddenly stopped coming to any work events? Missing the odd gathering because of deadlines, some personal issues or for a particular reason is no cause for alarm, however colleagues who display radically different behaviour when it comes to social situations could be suffering from difficulties.

Now that you know the signs, what should you do if you observe them in a colleague?

An employee suffering from mental health issues may not be fully aware of the changes they are displaying. This is a highly personal and sensitive topic, and, while many have tried to lift the taboo on mental health struggles, they unfortunately still persist. It is important to treat any possible situation with the utmost care and urgency.

Before approaching an employee which you suspect is struggling, it’s important to form a plan. You can start by discussing your concerns with HR, and gather the opinion of an expert before doing anything rash.

Should you decide to approach an employee to check in, its important to do so in complete privacy, and to ensure that you make them feel safe and valued, and that they are not going to be discriminated against due to any issues they may be suffering from.

Ultimately, showing empathy and giving the impression that the company is here to lend a helping hand is not only good for the people who make up your workforce, but also for the business in general.

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