How to spot mental health symptoms at work

According to our research, six in 10 employees currently have a mental health condition. With that in mind, if we were to ask you how mentally healthy your workforce is right now, would you really know?

Spotting signs of mental health issues early on is key. Often, warning signs go unnoticed, which can result in the issue increasing in severity, which can be detrimental not only to your business, but more importantly the employee.

Broadly speaking, mental health symptoms can be split into five categories: emotional, cognitive, behavioural, physical and business outcomes. So, let’s take a deep dive into each area…

Emotional symptoms

Employees may become increasingly irritable or overly sensitive to criticism, resulting in them taking feedback personally, when they’d previously taken it constructively.

They may also lose their self-confidence and sense of humour. If you’ve an employee who was previously outgoing and outspoken and they all of a sudden go into their shell, could there be underlying issues you need to carefully address?

Cognitive symptoms

While employees’ wellbeing is the number one priority, cognitive symptoms can often impact your business’ output. Individuals who suffer from a mental health condition may have difficulties concentrating, which can result in mistakes being made.

Furthermore, they may become increasingly indecisive and struggle to make decisions on their own. Cognitive issues can also affect peoples’ perception, ability to learn and memory.

To keep abreast of what could be cognitive symptoms of a mental health condition, look out for any sudden and unexplained drops in employees’ performance.

Behavioural symptoms

Often, employees with a mental health condition will become disengaged. They may withdraw themselves from group activities, regularly miss deadlines, and provide less in terms of productivity.

If an employee does become withdrawn, it’s important not to force participation though, as this could result in them shutting down more.

Other behavioural signs include a notable increase in sick days, regularly turning up late, and acting out of character.

Physical symptoms

Physical signs can be the easiest to look out for, but they must be approached sensitively. For example, if you notice an employee has rapidly gained weight, it’s not something you’d just blurt out, is it?

Other physical symptoms include: visible tiredness or exhaustion; constant illness; rapid weight loss; thinning hair; and lack of care in appearance – this should be gauged by what is the ‘norm’ on an employee-by-employee basis.

Business outcomes

As we’ve touched on throughout, there are several business impacts of poor mental health in the workplace. These are:

Jumping to conclusions

Of course, displaying any of the above symptoms shouldn’t be automatically associated with a mental health condition – you should use your judgement when determining this.

If you do think an employee might be struggling, be sure to approach the situation tactfully. Don’t just ask if they have a mental health condition. Instead, in private, say you’ve noticed that they’ve lost a lot of weight lately (using this symptom as an example), and ask them if they’re okay.

If they claim to be fine but continue to display the symptoms, consider re-approaching them after a few weeks, for example.

If you suspect an employee’s suffering from a mental condition and don’t know where to start, check out our video on how to talk to employees about mental health, where we share lots of useful support sites too.

For advice on how to deal with HR issues that arise when managing employees who have a mental health condition, get in touch with our HR & Employment Law experts on 0345 844 1111 or hello@citation.co.uk.

If you’re a client, remember, we’re available around the clock with our 24/7 advice line on either 0345 844 4848 or enquiries@citation.co.uk.

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