We are in a mental health crisis and it is important to discuss addressing mental health in the workplace. Our lives were turned absolutely upside down because of COVID-19 and it has affected everyone around the world. Whether you know it or not, you are most likely working with people who are affected by mental health disorders. It is imperative that we address this issue in the workplace to ensure that everyone understands their options for treatment. Treating mental health issues is important because people perform their best when their minds are clear and they are calm and happy.
Mental Health Checks
One technique I began using recently was to implement a mental health check at the beginning of every meeting with my colleagues and clients. You would be surprised at how many people opened up and had many frank discussions about mental health. I learned so much more about the lives of the people I worked with and we became very close. This also helped us to solidify our team which led to higher productivity.
If you want to support mental health in the workplace, it is important to learn about mental health disorders so that you can spot the symptoms. Some of the common symptoms include appearing tired all the time, a lack of productivity, and substance abuse. When co-workers encounter this in the workplace, it is easy to judge the person and think that they are either unhappy with their job or just plain lazy. While this may be the case in some scenarios, other times the person may be in a mental health crisis and the last thing that they need is trouble at work.
Many people engage in substance abuse to self-medicate their problems away. They may experience outbursts of emotion (usually extreme sadness or anger), a lack of caring about their appearance, or frequent absenteeism. Many people who self-medicate do so because they may not know that they have a mental health disorder. While it is not your job to make them see that they do have a mental disorder, you should make them aware that help is available if they need it without overstepping.
You can do this by avoiding attempting to diagnose them and getting mad when they do not seek treatment. You cannot control people and they need to forge their own path in life. One of the hardest things you will ever do is watch someone destroy themselves with substance abuse. Just understand that you have no control over their actions but you can control how you react to them.
Supporting Your Colleagues with Mental Health Disorders
If you want to help support a colleague who is experiencing a mental health issue, you can begin addressing mental health in the workplace in a private setting such as over lunch with just the two of you. You wouldn’t want to address it in a public setting or even in earshot of other colleagues because this does not preserve the privacy of the person affected by mental illness. You should let them know that you have empathy for their situation and that you are there if they ever want to talk. You can even talk about yourself and your own experiences with mental illness in order to get them to open up. But don’t force the conversation, if they don’t want to talk about it that is their decision. If they do open up, stop talking immediately and let them talk. You should just listen and not offer advice beyond telling them what their treatment options are.
I have had the pleasure of working with many colleagues who supported my mental illnesses over the years. They really helped me to see that I wasn’t thinking clearly and that I needed help. I remember at one point, I had a very pessimistic view of everything and a project manager I worked with would rephrase my statements into something positive. This is actually a technique that is used in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) which is a treatment for many mental health disorders. I have bipolar disorder and generalized anxiety disorder which I ignored for 17 years. I know all too well the mental gymnastics that people go through to reject the notion that they have a mental health disorder. I hope that more organizations address mental health in the workplace which will help to reduce or hopefully remove the negative stigma for mental health issues.
Mental Health in the Workplace – Courses on Pluralsight
You can learn more about Mental Health Awareness in my Pluralsight course, Increasing Mental Health Awareness for Improved Inclusiveness. This course includes animated scenario-based training and you will watch as an organization develops their mental health initiatives and how their initiatives impact their employees. Visit hoffstech.com/mentalhealthawareness to get started with a free trial today!