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Be the eyes in your workplace
By: Michael Winter

As you might be aware I am a big advocate of mental health. As I also have a passion for corporate health and wellness.

I can almost be 100% honest saying that I think we all know someone who has suffered or is still suffering from a mental illness.

Would I also be brave enough to say that you did not know of this at the time, but if you had been more aware you might have been more proactive in being an ally when they were going through some rough patches.

I know it is not within many of us to ask questions or pry into someone's life and delve into how they are feeling, but I think we should be caring enough as members of society and your workplace to overcome this "social busy-body" concept.

It is not easy for anyone who has a mental illness to "come out" and maybe we need show some initiative and start the ball rolling.

No, we are not all experts in mental health but we are all adults and I believe we have a responsibility to look out for your colleagues and fellow workers no matter what status they hold in the workplace.

You don't have to be best friends with them, but if you looked at it like first aider, you could be the one who was first on the scene before the experts came on board and performed your role to the best of your ability, you've done your job.

So here are some tips to promote a more positive mental health workplace

Spot the signs.
Common symptoms could be:

• an increase in unexplained absences or sick leave

• poor performance or timekeeping

• poor decision-making

• lack of energy and uncommunicative or moody behaviour.

Start by having a quiet word. You may discover that something at home is troubling them and you just need to show understanding and patience.

Focus on what you can control.
Mental health is complex and many of the factors causing mental health problems are out of your control but you can influence:

• workload and work variety

• quality of working relationships

• employee confidence in being able to talk to you about their problems

• bullying

• employee involvement in decision-making.

Tackle the causes of stress.
Here are six common causes of stress at work. Employees may feel:

• overloaded by demands placed on them

• fed up by the lack of control they have over the work they do

• line managers fail to give them enough support

• they are not sure what their role is at work or what is expected of them

• very anxious and uncertain by the way change is being managed

• relationships at work are not based on trust and good behaviour.

Keep talking If the employee is absent or returning from sickness absence try to:
• keep in touch while they are away

• hold a return to work interview on their first day back

• check on how they are coping within themselves and monitor their behaviour and performance.

Help employees to cope You do not necessarily need to be an expert/counsellor.
For example, helping an employee to manage their depression may include:

• specialist medical treatment following diagnosis of the illness

• managing interactions with colleagues and avoiding stressors that may trigger symptoms

• getting line management support/understanding

• working flexibly.

Keep informed about mental health Education around mental health issues will help to fight the misconceptions people have about mental illness.

Don't forget October is mental health month. Be sure to do something for your workplace to promote or make them all aware of mental health.

Added: 12-07-2018