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Maintaining good mental health is necessary for success in anyone’s professional and personal life. With 40% of short and long-term disability claims relating to mental-health, it’s important as an employer to be able to recognize the signs of mental illness, and help employees strengthen their mental health.
So, what is the difference between mental health and mental illness?
Mental Health is a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.
Mental Illness is a recognized, medically diagnosable illness that can result from someone’s biological, developmental and/or psychosocial factors. Mental disorders can be managed similar to how physical diseases are: prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation. Examples of mental illness conditions include: anxiety disorders, mood disorders, psychotic disorders, impulse control and addiction disorders, personality disorders, as well as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Recognize the signs:
1. Frequent absences from work
When an employee who normally reports to work on time starts arriving late, is more frequently absent or calls in sick, they could be experiencing an undiagnosed or diagnosed mental illness. (Note: there may be other reasons for their absenteeism such as personal or work-related issues; however, either of these can have an effect on the organization and should be addressed with the individual.)
2. Decreased work performance
An employee, who has displayed a lack of interest or involvement in their work, has missed deadlines or has had difficulty concentrating or remembering things, may be struggling with mental illness. A negative attitude or displaying a general inability to work with colleagues can often be indicators as well.
3. Changes in behavior
Sudden dramatic changes in mood such as extreme distress or anger or a lack of control over their emotions can be signs of mental illness. As well, if your employee has become quiet or has withdrawn from their regular social routine, especially if you have noticed a major change; it may be a red flag.
4. Recurring complaints of physical symptoms
There is a direct link between mental and physical health. Individuals living with mental illness are at a greater risk of developing physical symptoms. Fatigue / insomnia, headache, abdominal distress (nausea, pain, etc.) and change in weight can all manifest from poor mental health.
An employee displaying any of these 4 signs may be experiencing poor mental health, but there may also be another factor within their life causing this behavior such as a family, financial or social issue. As an employer, it is always best to address any concerns with with the employee one-on-one and offer assistance when possible to ensure you maintain a healthy working environment.