Times are changing and mental health is a common discussion topic these days.
According to Google “mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”.
An employee with poor mental health is unlikely to be productive in the short, medium, and possibly long term unless the issue is understood and effectively managed.
Google states that “stressful events such as losing a job, relationship issues, bereavement or money issues can lead to mental illness.”
Few adults have not suffered at least one of those events at some point – it’s part of being human.
There was a time, years ago, when I was stressed and found myself doing strange things such as leaving my grocery trolley full of groceries (which I had paid for) at the supermarket and arriving home empty handed. Around the same time I accidentally left my wallet (with all my credit cards and cheque book) on my car roof to fly off and scatter everywhere when I drove onto the southern motorway. Naturally, I pulled over and risked my life to retrieve them!
Naomi Osaka, the four-time Grand Slam tennis champion, recently announced that she was withdrawing from the French Open because she didn’t want to appear for the requisite news conferences that caused her “huge waves of anxiety”.
The French open organisers initially fined her, stating that media events are “part of the job”. The organisers were widely criticised for their response, while many of Naomi’s key sponsors, peers, and the general public supported her courage in sharing her own mental health experience.
So, what to do as an employer if/when an employee opens up about a mental health issue and needs time to recover? According to Google you should:
- Be a good employer,
- Provide a safe environment for talking,
- Ensure zero tolerance in the workplace for discrimination based on people’s mental health status,
- Help employees with mental health problems stay at work and return to work,
- Avoid labels.
And, if you’re the person with the mental health issue?
Recognise it, practice self-care, and ask for help.