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Signs of Mental Health Issues in the Workplace

23rd October 2017 HR and H&S

Poor mental health is one of the biggest issues in the workplace today.

‘In 2015/16 stress accounted for 37% of all work related ill health cases and 45% of all working days lost due to ill health.’ – Health & Safety Executive (2016)

Mental health covers everything from the most commonly experienced symptoms of stress and anxiety, right through to more complex mental health conditions, such as depression, bipolar disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Positive shifts in awareness, education and understanding are changing traditional attitudes, and employers are becoming more equipped to offer help and support for the employee, improving their health, career and job performance.

1: Increase in Sick Days

This is one of the most obvious signs of a health problem, and regular short-term absence (excluding a known chronic condition) can indicate a mental health issue.

Physical signs of mental health issues include being tired all the time, being sick and run down, headaches, reduced reaction times, poor sleeping, weight loss or gain, gastric/intestinal disorders, persistent muscular/ skeletal complaints, skin rashes, dishevelled appearance and being tearful.

2: High Staff Turnover

High turnover of staff is always an indication of a problem.

Employees suffering from mental health issues may resign because being in the organisation is making them unwell, or because they are not getting better and need to leave to recover.


3: Low Level of Employee Engagement

If an employee is becoming increasingly withdrawn, quiet and uncommunicative, then you should be alert to a potential mental health issue.

Other signs include lack of motivation, loss of confidence, heightened sensitivity to criticism, reduced participation in work activities and finding ways to avoid certain situations.


4: Low Productivity Levels

Be aware that a decrease in productivity can be a result of mental health issues. This should be considered before assuming low productivity is an indication of poor ability.

Some examples of decreased effectiveness include: not getting things done on time, inability to concentrate, indecisiveness, increased errors or accidents, difficulty with memory, complaints of not coping with workload, erratic behaviour and emotional responses.

5: Employee Grievances

Grievances and complaints highlight stress to an individual and can be both the cause, or be caused by poor mental wellbeing.

Be alert to increased grievance procedures, complaints of lack of management support and fixation with fair treatment issues.

6: Emotional Changes

Outbursts of anger or emotion that are out of the ordinary can be an indication of mental health issues.

This can also include conflict with other colleagues. Be aware of increased consumption of caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes and/or sedatives.

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