“Mental health is in your organisation,” a chief psychologist told delegates recently at Safety and Health Expo.
Speaking to delegates, the co-founder and chief psychologist at the Happy Mind Tribe, Hugo Metcalfe, said the three most common mental health difficulties are stress, anxiety, and depression.
He added it was important to recognise when somebody might be struggling in the workplace and respond appropriately.
For example, Metcalfe said that if an organisation has 500 employees, then 30 of them will have a generalised anxiety disorder. And also out of those 500, he added 15 will have depression, 23 will have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and five will obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
Metcalfe said there are many signs to show a person is struggling, ranging from underperformance to being withdrawn and feeling disconnected from other colleagues.
He added there are also more physical signs, including aggression, weight loss or weight gain.
The Chief Psychologist, who has worked in mental health for 18 years, added that “stressed brains make bad decisions” and that in the workplace, we often notice stress-based decisions.
He added that is why it’s important to get into the habit of cultivating genuine curiosity in the workplace, with everyone keeping an eye on the behaviour of work colleagues.
“All behaviour is communication,” he told delegates. “And all communication is an expression of need. Something is always said.”
He quoted the example of a colleague who is always late to a meeting and asked what does that behaviour say to their colleagues?
“There is no such thing as workplace stress, there is just stress that manifests itself in the workplace,” he added. “It’s just stress. And if you are going to start being curious and get ahead of crisis before it occurs, we need to communicate non-judgementally.”
He said two non-judgement ways of inviting conversation would be to start a conversation with the words “I’ve noticed…” or “I’m wondering…”.
“It’s important to notice that somebody is stressed, by noticing a change off the baseline. But you will not notice that change, unless you know what the baseline is.”
He added that sometimes it is best to leave the words “mental health” out of company communications, as that can have negative connotations. He told delegates the word “wellbeing” works much better.
Metcalfe also challenged delegates to think about how they measure wellbeing in an organisation. He said it is often measured by looking at absenteeism rates. But he said presenteeism (where sick workers still turn up to work) or leavism (where work is done during non-paid hours or annual leave) is equally important.
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