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Recognising the Signs of Mental Health Issues Among Team Members

As a leader, recognising the signs of mental health struggles among your team is crucial. Early detection can enable timely support, prevent escalation of issues, and foster a healthier work environment. This post aims to equip you with a few ideas and tools to identify potential mental health concerns and outline practical steps to offer assistance.

A Word of Caution

Before delving into the signs of mental health struggles, it's essential to approach this subject with sensitivity and awareness. The indicators listed below should not be used to assume or diagnose mental health issues in your team. Instead, view them as potential signs that an individual may need support. Remember, as leaders, our role is to empathise and support, not to diagnose and treat. Recognising these signs should prompt a supportive response, focusing on the well-being of the individual, rather than jumping to conclusions about their mental health.

Possible Signs of Mental Health Struggles

Recognising mental health issues can be challenging, as they often manifest subtly and vary widely among individuals. Here are key signs that may indicate a team member may be struggling with their mental health:

  • Changes in Performance - A noticeable decline in work quality, productivity or an increase in mistakes may indicate underlying issues.
  • Absenteeism or Presenteeism - Frequent short-term absences or coming to work but being disengaged and unproductive can be signs of mental health challenges.
  • Withdrawal - An employee who becomes increasingly withdrawn or isolates themselves from colleagues may be struggling.
  • Changes in Behaviour or Mood - Significant changes in mood, such as increased irritability, sensitivity to feedback, or appearing unusually anxious or depressed, can signal mental distress.
  • Physical Signs - Noticeable changes in appearance, such as looking consistently tired, weight changes, or neglecting personal grooming, may also indicate mental health issues.
  • Increased Sensitivity - Heightened sensitivity to work stress, deadlines, or interpersonal conflicts can be a sign of underlying mental health conditions.

Possible Steps to Take to Help

As a leader, your response to noticing these signs can make a significant difference in an employee's well-being and recovery process. Here are some steps to consider:

  • Create an Open Environment - Foster a workplace culture where mental health is openly discussed, and employees feel safe to share their struggles without fear of judgement or repercussions.
  • Initiate a Supportive Conversation - If you notice signs of struggle, privately and sensitively initiate a conversation with the employee. Express your concern based on observations of their behaviour, without making assumptions about their mental health.
  • Listen Actively - Offer your full attention, listen without judgement, and acknowledge their feelings. It’s crucial not to diagnose or offer personal advice on managing mental health.
  • Provide Information on Support Services - Inform the employee about available support services, such as Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs), counselling services, or mental health days. Encourage them to seek professional help if necessary.
  • Offer Workplace Adjustments - Discuss any adjustments that might help them manage their workload more effectively during this period. Flexibility in work hours, deadlines, or temporary reduction in responsibilities can provide much-needed relief.
  • Check-in - After the initial conversation, check in periodically to show continued support. Respect their privacy and let them control how much they wish to share moving forward.
  • Educate and Train - Invest in mental health first aid training for yourself and your management team to better recognise and respond to mental health issues in the workplace.
  • Lead by Example - Model healthy work-life balance practices and stress management techniques. Your behaviour can set a positive example for prioritising mental health.
Early recognition of mental health issues among employees and taking appropriate steps to offer support is vital. As leaders, creating an environment that promotes mental well-being and supports those struggling is not just beneficial for individual employees but is also essential for the overall health and productivity of your organisation. This field guide aims to empower leaders with the knowledge and tools to identify and address mental health struggles, ensuring a supportive and inclusive workplace culture. Remember, the goal is to support, not to diagnose or treat. Encouraging professional help and providing resources and adjustments can make a significant difference in someone's life.
Trevor O'Sullivan

Trevor O'Sullivan

General Manager. Since the early 2000s, Trevor has worked with thousands of Talent Management professionals to develop and apply assessment-based talent management solutions for selecting, developing and managing people. Trevor is an active member of the TTI Success Insights (TTISI) Global Advisory Council, contributes to TTISI product development and is a regular presenter at TTISI-R3. He is honoured to have received multiple Blue Diamond Awards and, more recently, the Bill Brooks Impact Award recognising his contributions to the TTISI global network.

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