“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always”, wrote Bestselling author Brad Meltzer.

When managing a team, it’s important to be aware that often what you see in your colleagues is just the tip of the iceberg. Mental ill health can strike at any time and isn’t always triggered as a response to acute trauma, such as a bereavement or a relationship breakdown. As a result, it’s important to be aware of the early signs of poor mental health in order to address them, reduce the impact and if required help your colleagues to recover faster.

Symptoms of mental ill health can largely be split into three categories; physical, psychological and behavioural.

Physical Symptoms of Mental Ill Health

Physical symptoms can be easy to see, but also easy to overlook. Examples include sudden weight gain or weight loss and moving very slowly or being restless and agitated. A more extreme example is an individual suffering a panic attack where they may begin to shake, sweat and struggle to catch their breath.

Psychological Symptoms of Mental Ill Health

Successfully spotting psychological signs relies heavily on the manager and team member having a good relationship so that the manager can recognise what “normal” looks like for that individual. If a colleague seems more distracted and confused than usual, or is tearful and finding it hard to make the kind of decisions they usually make easily, it might be time to talk. In the current circumstances where the ‘norm’ of seeing colleagues in the office everyday may not be possible, it is even more important to ensure there are regular and open lines of communication with your teams and ideally use video calls so you can see people’s expressions and body language as well as hear any changes in their demeanour.

Behavioural Symptoms of Mental Ill Health

Behavioural signs in the workplace are often mistaken for the employee being disinterested or disengaged, when really, it’s the tip of their iceberg and the colleague has begun to experience a decline in their mental health. Examples of behavioural signs include poor time keeping, missed deadlines, irritability and withdrawnness, all which can be mistaken for the employee “poor performance”, but in fact could be an indicator of a much more serious underlying issue.

So what can a team leader and an organisation do ?

It could all sound a little overwhelming and a huge responsibility for one person to take on, which is where Mental Health First Aid can be invaluable. Mental health first aiders are members of staff that are specifically trained to spot the signs and symptoms of mental ill health and provide invaluable first line help. Like physical first aiders their role is to support colleagues in times of need and also direct them to the appropriate professional support as and when needed.

The organisation can also adopt an open and accepting culture where mental health is discussed. We’re all different and not everyone will be comfortable sharing their experiences straight away but by adopting a culture of openness within your organisation it will encourage employees to open up, knowing that their mental health will be taken as seriously as physical health. You can read more about supporting mental health in the workplace in our blog here.

If you feel your business is ready to talk mental health, get in touch with Remit today and find out how we can help.