Recognizing Signs & Symptoms
As an employer, manager or supervisor, it is not your job or your responsibility to diagnose someone who may be dealing with a mental health issue.
However, being aware of the signs that might suggest someone is struggling is an important first step in supporting your staff or a colleague, and lays the foundation for entering into a caring and empathic conversation.
Mental illness includes a broad range of symptoms and behaviours, and it is not easy to determine whether someone is having mental health issues.
One key indicator is that someone may begin to act uncharacteristically: an energetic person may seem lethargic for a considerable time, or a person who is usually modest may make grandiose claims about their abilities. Behaviour changes such as these may reflect personal difficulties that can be resolved quickly. They may be signs that the person is no longer happy in their job. The individual might be going through a particularly stressful time in their life for any number of reasons. However, these behaviour changes might indicate that the person is experiencing a mental health issue that requires professional help.
What you might notice:
- Consistent late arrivals or frequent absences
- Difficulty carrying out normal daily activities
- Increased accidents or safety problems
- Decreased interest or involvement in one’s work
- Lack of cooperation or a general inability to work with colleagues
- Working excessive overtime over a prolonged period of time
- Difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or remembering things
- Deterioration in personal hygiene
- Significant weight loss or weight gain
- Recent social withdrawal and loss of interest in others
- Loss of initiative or desire to participate in any activity; apathy
- Episodes of crying
- Isolating self from colleagues, family, and friends
- Rapid or dramatic shifts in feelings or “mood swings”
- Appearing distressed or anxious
- Uncharacteristic or peculiar behavior
- Use of alcohol or drugs
What you might hear:
- Making excuses for missed deadlines or poor work
- Complaints of sleep and appetite changes
- Frequent complaints of fatigue or unexplained pains
- Angry outbursts towards others for no apparent reason
- Expressing feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness
- Expressions of strange or grandiose ideas
- Expressing fear or suspicion of others
It is important to remember that people behaving in these ways may be simply having a bad day or week, or may be working through a particularly difficult time in their lives that is temporary. However, a pattern that continues for a longer period may indicate an underlying mental health problem.
The information contained in this toolkit is provided for general information only.
It is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice. Always consult your physician or appropriate health-care provider with respect to your particular circumstances.