We all know how much of a problem mental health can be. Especially in the workplace, where stress and intensity can get the better of anyone, we are all vulnerable. That is why it is so important that executives play the role of watchful guardian, overseeing their team members to make sure they always feel supported and significant.
The R-U-OK Day campaign is ingenious. So many Australians feel uncomfortable having serious conversations with their friends and colleagues about their problems. R-U-OK Day takes the awkwardness out of the situation. We all expect people to approach us and ask the question; we all feel better giving a genuine answer.
You really cannot underestimate the effect this has for people who are struggling with these sorts of issues. It, truly, saves lives.
What this tells us is that when people consider mental health an appropriate thing to talk about, they engage. Unfortunately, no matter how hard we try to create open and welcoming environments, there will always be barriers to these sorts of conversations on a day-to-day basis. It can just be simple things – someone might not want to burden their colleague with the conversation when their week looks busy; maybe the office seems quite happy and they don’t want to ruin that atmosphere. There are so many reasons why people might think suffering in silence is the right thing to do.
Executives, therefore, must be vigilante. Not only are they in the unique position of overseeing a large group of people, many executives are appointed to senior roles on the basis of their high levels of emotional intelligence. C-suite officials have the capacity to sense unease, discomfort, stress, anxiety, tiredness and depression. They have the power to act on it and help people who may not feel like sharing.
For an executive, every day should be R-U-OK Day.
What Should Executives Be Looking Out For?
HeadsUp, in conjunction with Beyond Blue, has compiled a list of superficial factors for executives to look out for in order to determine when their employees may be suffering from a mental health problem.
- Difficulty meeting deadlines and managing multiple tasks
Research from the World Health Organisation shows that people suffering from depression are much more likely to be unable to concentrate than others. It doesn’t take a genius to work out why; depression makes you feel lethargic and unmotivated. Of course you are going to be pressed to finish the tasks you have been set at work when you are feeling like this. If one of your team members is continually failing to meet his or her deadlines, you should be wary of an underlying issue.
- Drinking to excess
Is there a person in your office who always goes a little too far at Friday night drinks? Alcoholism and drug abuse are two ways in which people suffering from mental health issues self-medicate. If someone is always looking hungover, it might be time to give them a tap on the shoulder and have a conversation.
- Avoiding being around colleagues
This is a tough one. Some people are introverts. You never want to risk making them feel uncomfortable by forcing them out of their office to socialise with people. Other times though, keeping away from colleagues is a sign of mental illness. There might be an extrovert in your office who is struggling so much with a problem that they feel as if they can’t go out and connect with their colleagues. Isolation is always a warning sign. Executives beware.
About 3 million Australians suffer from depression or anxiety at any one time. 1 in 5 women and 1 in 8 men will have some sort of mental health problem during their lifetime. The vast majority of these people will work in organisations just like yours.
We are not at the point where we can expect people to volunteer information about their mental health on the rare occasions that they are asked. That is why executives must add an extra notch to their job descriptions.
Executives are the most perceptive people in the workplace; they are empathetic, understanding and great relationship-builders. All of these qualities need to be put into action when it comes to noticing people who might be suffering in silence.
When it comes to mental health, actions speak louder than words.