Managers – Workplace Mental Health No 3

Workplace Mental Health Continuum

Mental health is the way we think and feel and our ability to deal with ups and downs. It is something we all have. When we enjoy good mental health, we have a sense of purpose and direction, the energy to do the things we want to do, and the ability to deal with the challenges that happen in our lives. 

As manager in the workplace, you  are not expected to  try and solve their problems, diagnose them, or prescribe treatment. What they will need is someone who has empathy, is genuinely caring and can listen well.

Strive to Thrive and Promote Mental Health Literacy.


Our Mental Health Changes

Our mental health does not always stay the same. We are on a continuum in our workplace environment. It can fluctuate as circumstances change and as you move through different stages in your life. Distress is a word used to describe times when a person is not coping – for whatever reason. When we feel distressed, we need a compassionate, empathetic, human response.

“Mental health can best be viewed as a continuum. In the workplace we can view this  continuum and determine where we are on the continuum using the associated signs or markers. These are Excelling, Thriving, Unsettled, Struggling and In Crisis”

We all fit into this continuum, we do not have to fit precisely into any of the Icons or descriptions, but we are on the continuum of mental health. One advantage of seeing mental health in this way, is that we do not separate out people who are mentally ill, from those who are not. Instead we can see everyone as existing at different points on the continuum scale.

So, it is not that people with mental illness are completely different from other people it is just that they are on different points on the continuum. This helps break down the stigma because the mental health continuum is applicable to everyone, crucially we all have the potential to move along it in either direction.

Our Continuum at a Glance

Below you will have a glance of some of the signs for differing stages on the continuum. The use of the continuum is for establishing what support is required, it is not used to  judge a person.

EXCELLING – Signs of Excellence on the continuum – Cheerful, Joyful, Energetic, High Performance in job and other tasks,Fully realising potential, Flow- Intense engagement and focus in a rewarding task.

THRIVING Signs of Thriving on the continuum – ‘Normal’ mood, some variations,Positive, Calm, Functioning normally in job and other duties, Sleeping well,Eating normally, Socially activity normal.

UNSETTLED – Signs of Unsettled on the continuum – Worried, Nervous, Edgy, Irritable, Frustrated, Self-doubting, Sad, Gloomy, Trouble sleeping, Tired, Distracted, Less social activity, Becoming withdrawn at work.

STRUGGLING – Signs of Struggling on the continuum – Anxious, Depressed, Sad, Low Self-esteem, Tired, Poor work performance, Presenteeism, Poor concentration, Poor sleep, Poor appetite, Drug / Alcohol misuse.

IN CRISIS – Signs of In Crisis on the continuum – Very Anxious, Very low mood, Absenteeism, Exhausted, Feels sick, Unexplained pains, Isolation, Very poor sleep, Wight loss, Psychotic break, Severe drug / Alcohol misuse.

“people immersed in ease can see a solution almost instantly because their minds are not gyrating in the middle of some tangential usually imagined emergencies”

Worst things anyone can say

As a manager having identified where your team member is on the continuum you can now determine an action plan of support. The WORST thing you can say to someone experiencing a mental health condition or is in the Unsettled, Struggling or In Crisis stages is –

  • Man up, Just get over it,
  • Pull yourself together,
  • It is not so  bad, have a cup of tea and get back to  work, it is all in your head, everybody has a little down/ moody / OCD type of day it is normal,
  • This will pass,
  • Snap out of it…….”

Approaching them

You  need to  approach them and invite them into a quiet and confidential place, assure them this a safe place to talk and it is  confidential.  Then perhaps ask:

  • Would you like to talk about what you are going through?
  • If not, who are you comfortable talking to?
  • Talk to me. I am listening.
  • This must be hard for you, but you are going to get through it.
  • What can I do to help?
  • Have you spoken to your doctor or therapist about how you are feeling?”

As manager in the workplace, you  are not expected to  try and solve their problems, diagnose them, or prescribe treatment. What they will need is someone who has empathy, is genuinely caring and can listen well.

“knowing and understanding your team is vital to improved productivity – do you know their learning styles, interests and aspirations?”

As a manager you should have an understanding on what you can do to  support your team in terms of the organisations procedures and policies, when you need to escalate a situation and when to ask for help. As you will have established a good understanding of each of your team member you will be able to  assess which of these policies or procedures are best suited for that team member.

Should they be showing signs of self-harm or harm to others, are overly  aggressive then you need to obtain some additional help. You have the best opportunity to  change the situation.

You can download a detailed Guide of Mental Health Conditions. They are intended to inform you and are not to be used in attempting to diagnose or give advice or therapy to a person who may be display one or a number of the items covered in the download.

This a free download – but would appreciate a donation to Save the Children, Samaritans, Papyrus or an other Mental Health charity of your choice. Thank you

Managers Workplace Mental Health – Training

We are currently offering a training program and managers guide to Mental Health and Conditions in the Workplace. If you are interested, simply hit the button to do so below.

Spotting the Signs of Mental Ill Health

The importance of having a good relationship, interaction, trust, and open communication cannot be emphasised enough. The earlier a manager becomes aware that a team member is experiencing mental ill health, the sooner steps can be taken to prevent it becoming more serious and provide support to help them during this period.

So, it is important for a manager to ask team members ‘how they are doing’ and create an environment where staff feel able to be open and honest about how they are feeling.

Noticing that a team member is tearful can signal problems in their personal life, or perhaps they may be suffering from stress or ill mental health. It is important to remember that everyone’s experience with ill mental health is different, so symptoms can vary from person to person. Of course, not everyone who experiences mental ill health will exhibit obvious signs.

There is a balance to be had here so, a manager should not become paranoid, super sensitive to small changes in their teams lives or behaviours. They may just have had a bad or stressful experience commuting to work – we are after all, human and have mood and emotional  variations hourly daily etc. It is when these are significant and really out of character that  attention is required.

A manager should also be prepared for a team member to come and talk to them about their mental health. This can be exceedingly difficult for both the team member and the manager, so it is vital that the manager stays calm and patient, is supportive and offers reassurance.

What Are Some Considerations?

  • move the conversation to a private space, where they will not be disturbed (if not already somewhere appropriate)
  • thank the team member for coming to talk to them
  • allow them as much time as they need
  • focus on what the team member says
  • be open minded
  • try to identify what the cause is
  • think about potential solutions
  • be prepared for the unexpected
  • adjourn the meeting if it is necessary to think through what has been discussed before making a decision.

What are some of the Signs to Spot?

As a manager one should never make assumptions, if any of these signs are noticed in your staff members, it may be worth speaking to them or offering help instead of punishing them.

  • Panic attack – a panic attack can be an incredibly frightening experience, and several physical symptoms can happen all at once. Someone who is suffering a panic attack may begin to shake, sweat, struggle to breathe or experience a choking sensation. Panic attacks can be associated with mental health problems such as anxiety or panic disorders.
  • Memory lapses – this can be one of the more noticeable psychological signs in a person and can often lead to confusion or disorientation. Memory lapses can be caused by number of things, including overwhelming stress or experiencing trauma.
  • Increased irritability or anger -in an employee can be a tell-tale sign of anxiety or other disorders, especially if this is an employee who usually has a calm and collected personality. Everyone has different moods, but sudden and dramatic changes in mood, such as extreme distress or anger, can be a symptom of mental illness.
  • Behavioural Changes -in many cases, behavioural signs can be misinterpreted as a bad work ethic or etiquette and can result in an employee being wrongfully reprimanded.
  • Risk Taking – if an employee has begun to take risks that seem out of character or appears to be making more impulsive decisions without thinking through the consequences, this can be an implication of bi-polar disorder or schizophrenia.
  • Absenteeism or Presenteeism – notable increased absence in an employee may initially lead you to disciplinary action, however, before this you may want to consider speaking to them to ensure they are not facing personal issues. Offering help and support to your staff may help to decrease absence if there is an underlying cause. 
  • Withdrawn – we all need quiet time occasionally, but withdrawing from life, especially if this is a major change, could indicate a mental health issue. Refusing to join in social activities may be sign they need help.

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