How to detect signs of psychological distress in the workplace

July 6, 2018

In Management & Organizational Performance

Altrum recognition - Signas of psychological distress at work

If the physical health of your employee is deteriorating, you will most likely notice it at first glance. But what about their mental health?

Mental disorders and addictions are invisible evils that affect many people, and no one is immune to them. In fact, one in five Canadians will suffer from a mental illness in their lifetime, according to Statistics Canada. More so, about 20% of those affected also have substance abuse problems.

As an employer, you interact with your employees daily and are therefore able to notice the appearance of some warning signs of psychological distress. If you suspect that one of your employees is struggling with serious problems, talk about it and get the necessary help.

Early intervention coupled with the appropriate care can really turnaround a situation. Here are seven clues to help you spot psychological distress.

1. Changes in time management

Does your employee, who is typically very punctual, started arriving late in the morning? Mental disorders can cause insomnia and have an impact on our motivation to get out of bed. If drastic changes in the time of arrival and departure at work take place, there may be a reason to ask questions.

2. Frequent absences

If you notice a considerable increase in the number of sick days, it’s possible that your employee has problems.

3. Decrease in motivation

You see your colleague in the break room and day after day, he or she shows a forced smile, their movements are slow, and they exhibit a negative attitude. Do they still look like they are enjoying their work? Before accusing them of not taking their work seriously, it is advised to investigate further.

4. Irritability

When a normally playful and cheerful person suddenly becomes irritable and abrupt in his or her remarks, it is possible that they suffer from mood disorders. Admittedly, the stress of the job can be a direct external factor, but if the behavior is maintained over time, it might be a sign of a more serious problem.

5. Fatigue and lack of concentration

Does your employee seem to be struggling with difficulties when performing simple tasks? If he or she suffers from psychological distress, they may have trouble writing e-mails, listening during meetings, or even reading for extended periods.

6. Isolation

Before,  you always ate together at lunchtime, but one of your colleagues started skipping this meal or eating alone at their desk. Mental disorders are sometimes accompanied by a loss of appetite and a need for isolation.

7. Hygiene

One of the most easy-to-notice, early warning signs of depression is a change in body hygiene habits. From one employee to another, these indicators can be more or less obvious, especially in a context of work that requires a neat appearance.

If one of your employees displays several of these warning signs, you can help them through their tough times by directing them to the appropriate resources. In the meantime, consider setting up a mental health promotion program. By clearly showing your position on the matter, you show your employees that you care.

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