Being able to accurately identify employees who suffer from a mental health illness should be a sincere concern for managers and supervisors inside the workplace, especially because one in every five Americans—44.7 million Americans—currently lives with a mental health illness.
In addition to promoting mental health awareness across your organization, you’ll want to train the managers and leaders across your organization to be better at identifying mental health concerns, too, as they tend to spend more time with employees on average than you will as a Human Resources professional or as a learning and development professional. Here are a few things you can do.
Encourage Managers to Spend More Personalized Time with Employees
Encourage managers to spend one-on-one time with each one of their employees on a somewhat frequent basis, and discourage them from playing favorites or interacting with only a small portion of the staff they manage or oversee.
Managers should always be inclusive and knowledgeable of their entire staff and should be able to quickly recognize when someone is beginning to act out of character or is going through a personal hardship or when someone begins to show signs of depression, anxiety, or a drug dependency, etc. You can develop and facilitate mentorship and coaching programs to help managers better connect with their employees on a rolling basis, too.
Emphasize the Importance of Managers’ Communication Skills
Emphasize communication skills when training managers and leaders across your organization. Focus on communication skills that entail body language, empathy, and emotional intelligence.
When managers are highly adept at communication on all levels, they will become much better at identifying when someone is showing signs of anxiety, stress, depression, etc. Read “Step-by-Step: 3 Ways to Train for Emotional Intelligence” for more information.
Point Out Signs that Indicate an Employee Might Be Suffering from Mental Illness
Tell your managers to notice when employees come to work with signs of insomnia or fatigue, such as dark circles around the eyes, or when employees stop showering or start ignoring their own personal hygiene. Those signs could indicate severe depression.
In addition, employees who begin abusing substances, such as alcohol, illicit drugs, and painkillers, could also be suffering from a mental illness. And employees who start to withdraw from others or stop eating and socializing at work could also be suffering from a mental illness.
Accentuate the Need for Managers to Rely on Data
Sometimes, data can even indicate when someone is suffering from a mental illness. For instance, decreased attendance rates and productivity rates could indicate an employee who is suffering from a mental illness, especially if every other employee’s attendance and productivity rates are much higher.
Or, if employees have put in a significant number of hours without taking a break or continually stay late, that could also indicate someone who is overworked or avoiding a personal trauma outside of the office. Encourage your managers to rely on data and investigate instances where something seems off.
As you train your managers to better identify mental health concerns in the workplace, keep the action items listed above at the forefront.