Managing your mental health can be hard. A juggling act of emotions, circumstances and perspectives.
The workplace can be a serious source of stress and anxiety. Among other things – there’s the pressure of deadlines, the challenge of interpersonal relationships, and the expectation that you should keep it together, no matter how you’re feeling inside.
But there are ways to help. And it can be better.
Here are things managers can do to provide a supportive environment for their employees.
Keep an open mind.
You may have ideas of what mental health or mental illness look like. But consider that different people are impacted differently.
If you’re supporting a colleague in need, it’s helpful to think about the person before you think about the condition.
Remember that everyone has an inner world as complex as yours, and as the old cliché goes, maybe fighting an ongoing battle you know nothing about.
Mental illness can be subtle.
When we talk about mental illness, we tend to think of more extreme cases. Severe depression, crippling anxiety and complex personality disorders, to name a few.
But often, people suffer in subtle ways. From struggling to get to sleep or stay asleep, appetite changes or problems with digestion, to changes in mood, personality and communication style.
When the problems aren’t obviously mental health related, not even to the one who’s suffering, it’s easy to just write a person off for being problematic.
That’s why it’s important to spot changes in someone’s behaviour. If your employee is in the grip of chronic stress, they’re vulnerable to breaking down. You need to catch the issue as early as possible.
For a long time, mental health as a topic was considered taboo. People broadly avoided talking about it.
Fortunately, that’s changing. People are speaking out and accessing more information on the subject than ever before.
However, you should understand that employees have personal boundaries. They probably won’t want others to know about their issues, and it’ll be hard to regain their trust if you lose it.
Give them the opportunity to disclose their troubles in a safe, secure and comfortable environment. And, respect their right to privacy and confidentiality.
Have a trained, visible and approachable Mental Health First Aider.
We invest a lot of time and energy training staff in physical first aid. But mental health first aid is just as important.
Businesses are coming around to realising this, with the role of Mental Health First Aider becoming more common.
Not only should there be employees with the knowledge and capacity to help, but they should also be clearly visible, available and approachable.
That way, for example, if someone feels the full force of an anxiety attack, a trained colleague could meet them with appropriate exercises to calm them down, preventing their issues from escalating.
This provides a level of security and safety in their work environment that they wouldn’t have had if the Mental Health First Aiders didn’t exist, weren’t known to the people who needed them, or weren’t considered to be helpful or approachable.
Help to manage their workload.
Targets and deadlines can be big stressors. Try and meet them under stress, with your energy depleted and decision making impaired, and it doesn’t tend to work – a vicious cycle.
It’s helpful to set a pace that satisfies everyone, where the business can prosper but the employee doesn’t feel overwhelmed. If the balance tips too far to one side, the opposite side faces stress. You want to address that balance, because the side taking stress will eventually break, and that could break the whole machine.
Basically, take care of your employees. Value them because they create value for you. And don’t make them feel like they’re trying to outrun a tidal wave. You wouldn’t work well in those conditions, either.
Consult with local Essex services.
We don’t know everything there is to know about anything. Mental health is no exception.
And sometimes, we could use some outside help. Because these guys are well connected.
For a more rounded view on the subject, see @Living Well Essex for links to a number of groups: https://www.livingwellessex.org/health-and-wellbeing/mental-health/getting-help/.
Build bridges, not walls.
Many of us deal with mental illness by putting up metaphorical walls.
This makes it hard for others to get to know us, understand us, and relate to us. Unless they happen to be a similar personality, suffering in a similar way.
In the workplace, these situations often manifest into misunderstandings. And misunderstandings tend to fester, leaving us feeling detached from each other.
Open plan offices are notorious for this, bringing lots of us together in one room, only to feel like we’re on the outside looking in.
You can tackle this by working to better understand your people. By taking note of how they present during periods of mental health, as well as their off days, and having the confidence to approach issues with sensitivity before they have the chance to do real damage.
If you do this, you’ll start to break down those walls, which means fewer misunderstandings.
Not only is that great for morale and team spirit, your business will become a place of safety, security and stability for your employees.