Spotting mental health symptoms

It’s World Mental Health Day on 10th October. Though this is a great way to raise awareness and reflect on our own mental health, we should look after our mental health all year round. A great starting point is understanding mental health symptoms.

Good mental health allows us to live a fulfilling life, enjoying activities, feeling able to express emotion and maintaining strong relationships with those around us. As mental health is so individual, it’s often easy for those around us to assume everything is fine – even if it isn’t.

Spotting mental health symptoms in others can be tough. We never want to make assumptions or put pressure on others to talk when they aren’t ready. But there are key signs we should look out for that possibly indicate a friend, family member or colleague is suffering from low mental health.

Look out for uncharacteristic behaviour

If someone’s usually the life and soul of the office, but seem more and more withdrawn then they may be struggling. Similarly, a usually quiet personality who suddenly becomes irritable, angry or has unusual outbursts could be showing signs of having low mental health.

Changes in productivity or workplace engagement isn’t necessarily a performance issue, or a sign that an individual has lost interest in their job. A change in the way someone behaves at work could be an early indicator of mental health problems. Try to get to the root cause of the problem before accusing someone of poor work ethic.

You should also look out for physical changes. If someone’s general appearance is changing, or there’s a notable change in weight, that individual could be struggling mentally. As we know, physical and mental health are inextricably linked so you should always consider whether someone’s physical appearance could be an indicator of low mental health.

Keep an eye out for other signals such as a colleague or friend becoming tearful, distracted or forgetful. Physical symptoms such as someone shaking or appearing breathless could also be a key sign of panic attacks or heightened anxiety.

Too often we shy away from addressing problems. We consider key signs and symptoms ‘a bad day’ or feel uncomfortable starting up a conversation. Having said that, it’s important not to jump to conclusions. The above changes could be happening for a variety of reasons. The best way to really understand how someone is feeling is to talk to them openly.

Even when you spot mental health symptoms – how do you offer help and support?

Talk

Never underestimate the power of a brew! Simply asking how someone’s doing, or offering to chat over a cup of tea, could make all the difference.

Sometimes, an unwillingness to interact can be a key sign of a mental health problem. Start a conversation by asking if everything is okay or offering help and support. Simply being there for someone can be enough to encourage them to open up.

Don’t engineer the perfect scenario to have a conversation about mental health. Chatting over a cup of tea, while on a walk or prepping lunch together could be an ideal, informal setting. It gives both parties the opportunity to have something “to do” while talking, so you don’t feel pressured to fill silences or steer the conversation in a particular way.

Our Manager Training: Wellbeing At Work course is CPD Certified and perfect for line managers who want to learn new tools and techniques to support their team’s wellbeing.

And don’t talk

Don’t push someone into having a conversation with you. Relentlessly asking if someone is okay, and pestering them to open up won’t empower them. Ask twice, but no more than that. This way, you can be sure your friend or colleague knows you’re not just being polite. If they reassure you that they’re fine twice, they clearly aren’t ready to open up yet. They’ll know you’re there for them when they are, though.

You don’t need to talk face to face, either. Whilst some people find this helpful, others feel more comfortable talking via social media or text. Think about the way an individual normally communicates and take your steer from that.

Eliminate stigma

This won’t happen overnight. A great company culture takes time to build up and develop. If you’ve created a welcoming, open environment where mental health is simply not a taboo topic, then chances are your employees will feel more comfortable talking and sharing.

Put in the hard work now to lay the foundations – your employees will thank you later.

Support

Those with mental health issues may find it beneficial to socialise, exercise, try mindfulness or a number of other techniques/strategies that help boost their mental health.

Every person is different. Have an open conversation about what may help that individual better manage their mental health. Never make assumptions, make too many suggestions or try to come up with an ingenious solution. Simply exploring options together can help empower people to make effective lifestyle changes.

The Thrive app is a great resource to help manage common mental health issues, giving individuals the tools and techniques they need to build resilience and manage stress.

Refer

You’re not expected to know all the answers. Signpost your friend or colleague to seek further help from a professional, whether that’s a GP or a wellbeing specialist.

How to support World Mental Health Day

The Mental Health Foundation encourages people to host a Tea & Talk on 10th October. This can be done at a workplace, with friends and family or even virtually. The event highlights the importance of talking to one another and offering support. And what better way to do it than over a cup of tea and a slice of cake?

Let’s talk about mental health

We Are Wellbeing works with employers to improve company culture, helping employees to thrive. Through wellbeing seminars, training and other services, we destigmatise mental health and encourage employees to share their own experiences. This enables workplaces to become more inclusive, welcoming spaces where employees feel safe and supported.

Register for our Mental Health Awareness Workshop or Seminar

Our Mental Health Awareness Workshop (half day) or Seminar (60 minutes) provides expert training, advice and guidance.

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