Although most of what we see in the news recently concerns the physical symptoms and effects of the coronavirus, there is another side that is less spoken about— mental health. Even if one doesn’t contract the virus, it’s possible for someone to experience some form of mental health struggle, whether it’s temporary and minor or something that requires professional help.
Identifying these issues early and addressing them in the most appropriate way can help you and your team avoid emotional strife and cultivate a healthier and more positive experience during this time.
Let’s explore the facts as well as the resources available to keep your team mentally resilient.
Mental health resources
To properly address any mental health issues within your company, you must first arm your team with the best information and support. Most often, this means building out a human resources department, or in smaller teams, assigning a human resources manager. This department or individual will be responsible for directing people to the proper health resources should they need them.
At this stage, you should seriously consider giving everyone (particularly your HR leaders) mental health first aid training. Just as first aid training can help someone with physical injuries, mental health first aid can help someone suffering from mental illness. This training can potentially save lives.
HR leaders may also want to share free videos or webinars that provide guidance and support. The National Council for Behavioral Health offers a variety of training resources for both leaders and team members. You can find a comprehensive list of ongoing webinars here. Also, check out webinars from Mental Health America (MHA) and the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA).
The Crisis Text Line is another incredibly useful service if you live in the US, Canada, UK, or Ireland. Simply text “HOME” to 741741, and a trained Crisis Counselor will respond from a secure platform. The Crisis Text Line can be tremendously helpful if you need immediate emergency support.
No matter where you are, you can find something of use in this Global Mental Health Resources list from CheckPoint. This is an exhaustive collection of links and materials for a variety of issues: depression, anxiety, addiction, sexuality, women’s health, and more.
If the issue is specifically related to coronavirus, we highly recommend visiting the CDC’s resource page for more info and resources.
The mental health of employees
Mental health is already a topic that is taboo in many circles, but none more so than in the workplace. Symptoms of severe mental illnesses tend to be ignored, or worse, viewed as a sign of weakness. Lack of motivation or energy can, for instance, be a symptom of depression and many other mental illnesses, but can often be perceived as laziness.
Empathy and compassion are the foundations for building trust with your employees. It’s not enough to write bold statements in a handbook or create clever commercials. Leaders have a responsibility to create a culture of empathetic and supportive listening. Too often people are quick to talk but not to listen. What is your company doing to really hear each individual’s problems?
Find ways to have consistent communication, with coworkers and managers alike. Schedule regular 1:1 meetings to bring up tough subjects more candidly. Create anonymous surveys so people can voice their concerns without the fear of repercussions or judgment.
As much as possible, train your employees and leadership to catch mental illnesses before they grow worse and cause unexpected problems for the individual and everyone around them. Look for signs of stress— lack of sleep, impatience, or loss of motivation.
The mental health of managers
Employees aren’t the only ones prone to mental illness, managers are too. After all, it can be a lot to oversee multiple projects or accounts and be responsible for multiple people at a time. The same practices of identification and treatment remain the same— listen closely, create channels of feedback, and catch symptoms before they develop.
Encourage self-care and empathy. If someone needs time off, hear them out. Managers tend to have high availability to their team, which can add a tremendous amount of stress. It may be something as simple as a few days, or even a few months. If you truly believe in that person you will want to direct them to the appropriate help and care that they need.
Emotional intelligence is key to any successful manager. That is the ability to read and understand emotions, not just in others, but in one’s self. While we may all be able to read one’s face when they are happy or sad, it can be difficult to spot mental illness when people try to hide it. Train managers and other leaders to notice changes in tone, facial expressions, and body language to determine whether there may be a larger issue at hand.
Tips for mental health during a pandemic
Now that you know the symptoms of stress, what can you do about it? Fellow coworkers, leaders, family members, and friends, everyone on the team can do something to help someone suffering from mental illness.
- Take breaks – Not just from work, but from the news, and from social media. Too much stimulus can cause our brains to go haywire and overthink everything. With so much negativity in the news and even in our social circles, intertwining it with work responsibilities is a recipe for burnout. Set reminders to go for a walk, or eat a healthy meal, instead of scrolling through headlines.
- Practice mindfulness – Mindfulness is the act of being present and aware of yourself. It isn’t clearing your mind of thoughts, as most people believe, but about clearly identifying the thoughts that run through your mind. Over time, practicing mindfulness can help you catch negative thoughts and mindsets before they consume your whole being.
- Talk it out – Bottling up issues and concerns at work can lead someone to explode one day. Encourage team members to speak freely with one another, and with their leaders. It’s the only way to work towards a sustainable solution.
Mental health is just as vital as physical health. If we treat our minds with the same care and attention that we tend to treat our bodies, we can cultivate safer and more pleasant environments to work in. Remember though, it’s not a fight one can go through alone. Train your team, revisit your company’s culture, and work through the struggles of mental strife together.
Looking for other ways to encourage a healthier culture? Check out our list of inexpensive ways here.
How do you create happiness at work, even when you feel uninspired? Read our post, How to Be Happy at Work.