The most important aspect of mental health is that you can’t tell if someone has a mental illness just by looking at them, and everyone reacts to the different diagnoses in their way. According to Forbes, 25% of all workers have mental health disorders, and only half of those people seek out care for their demons. The pandemic has made the situation worse for many people.
If you work with or next to somebody with a diagnosed illness, there are ways you can support them without being overbearing. Don’t assume they need help with something because they look unwell – for example, don’t ask, “do you want me to take your shift today?” if they’re looking tired as it could be that lack of sleep is one of the symptoms.
Always ask how they’re feeling instead says, Michael Osland
If you’re in a work environment where everyone is comfortable with each other, ask if they would like to swap shifts or cover for them while they go and see their therapist.
Don’t take mental illness seriously unless it’s affecting their work performance – people dealing with depression and anxiety may become withdrawn and stop showing up for social activities, but this does not mean they can’t do their job correctly. The best way to deal with that is to talk to them privately about any concerns regarding their work, then leave it at that unless you have to discuss something relevant to the matter at hand.
Show interest in what therapies they’re using and how it affects them when possible (don’t p too much, though). If you know the person pretty well, you can drop a subtle reminder about going to therapy – just saying “I hope you’re doing okay” will show that you care and promote good mental health.
There are also things that employers can do for their employees’ mental health
Offer your employees time off for therapy appointments, rotating the days people get every week, so no one has to take extra time on top of their usual leave allowance. It may seem like too much work, but it’s worth it in the long run as happy employees make better workers.
Ensure there is a private space available where people can go if they feel overwhelmed by stress or don’t want an audience for what they’re dealing with at the moment. This could be anything from an empty meeting room to a quiet corner of the office, whatever will be helpful during stressful times.
Ensure there are no timetables for people to get their work done, especially when working from home during the Covid pandemic. Everyone has their own pace when dealing with problems, and you should respect that. If one of your employees falls behind on deadlines or fails to show up to meetings, that’s an entirely different problem that needs addressing separately.
Create activities for employees to bond over while promoting good mental health simultaneously – for example, make an effort not to schedule meetings during lunch breaks. Hence, people have time to eat correctly, organize group workouts in the gym, or plan company lunches/dinners once in a while (social is excellent for reducing stress levels) says, Michael Osland.
Employees dealing with mental health issues often become isolated or start avoiding responsibility, so take an interest in them and show some encouragement if you notice they’ve stopped socializing. Everyone reacts to stress differently, but it takes a lot of effort on the individual’s part, so let them know their work is appreciated even if they can’t seem to do their job correctly at times.
Don’t scare people by talking about “stomach bugs” when somebody is stressed out – it may be hard not to mention what you’ve observed when discussing their behavior with others. Still, anything that confirms your concerns will make things worse for the person you’re trying to help.