Knowing the Warning Signs
Mental Health in America
Mental health conditions affect 1 in 5 Americans1. These conditions start early in life with half of all lifetime cases starting by age 14 and three-quarters by age 242.
Knowing the warning signs of common conditions and connecting with care early leads to the best results. Yet, less than half of people experiencing mental health conditions get help3. This can be costly to employers in lost productivity, lower performance, loss of high performing employees, and rising disability rates. Untreated mental health conditions also take a heavy toll, often leaving people feeling lost, alone and disconnected in the workplace.
The more we know about the warning signs of common conditions in the workplace, like depression and anxiety, the more proactive we can be in supporting ourselves and others.
Warning Signs of Depression and Anxiety
Depression impacts 16% of adults during their lifetime. Warning signs include:
- Trouble sleeping, or sleeping too much
- Feeling sad
- Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed, social withdrawal
- Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
- Changes in appetite, overeating or not eating enough
- Restless activity or slowed movements and speech
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Thoughts of suicide or self-harm
Anxiety impacts 30% of adults during their lifetime. Warning signs include:
- Excessive worry
- Feeling nervous, irritable or on edge
- Sense of impending danger, panic or doom
- Increased heart rate
- Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation), sweating, and/or trembling
- Feeling weak or tired
- Difficulty concentrating
- Trouble sleeping
- Gastrointestinal (GI) problems
Notice. Talk. Act.™
If you see a co-worker's behavior or performance changing over time, ask if he or she is ok. The role is not to diagnose but to express care and concern for another person. By doing so, you can make a positive difference and checking in creates an organizational culture of caring. Consider using the NOTICE. TALK. ACT.™ approach in checking in.
NOTICE: the warning signs and changes in another person's behavior or performance. These noticeable changes persist for two or more weeks, not just once suggesting perhaps a bad day. If the change in behavior or performance is extreme enough to warrant an immediate response, make sure you understand your role within your organization's safety protocols.
TALK: find a quiet and private place to ask a co-worker are you ok? Expressions of concern contribute to a supportive work environment. Also, noticeable changes—like changes in appearance or behavior—suggest everything is not ok. When talking with a co-worker, provide examples of the behavior that is worrying you, be sure not to place judgement on the individual. It is best to assume that you do not know what is happening and want to learn more from that individual's perspective. Remind the person that we all have challenging times in life when we would benefit from extra support and guidance to get through those times. Be a good listener.
ACT: listening is a big help, but so is connecting a person you are concerned about with care. This can start by reminding the person about the Employee Assistance Program and sharing information about how to connect with the EAP. Also, recommend that the person consider connecting with a healthcare professional. Ask how you can help connect the person with support and care. If you are worried about the person's immediate safety, do not leave the person alone. Seek emergency assistance. If not, check back in with the person in a day or two to see how things are going.
Sharing the Warning Signs
Consider sharing the warning signs for depression and anxiety with all employees. Why? Because it helps to normalize these conditions, raises the visibility of mental health as an organizational priority and shows the organization cares about the mental health and well-being of employees.
Using approaches like NOTICE. TALK. ACT.™ equips employees with the guidance they need in approaching a co-worker they are concerned about.
These warning signs can be shared with employees through the organization's intranet, in electronic newsletters and in communications that go out addressing the importance of overall employee health and well-being. We all have a role to play in chipping away at stigma and encouraging people to seek help when it’s needed. Doing so has a high ROI, plus it's the right thing to do.