With each passing year it seems that our lives become busier, and more stressful. The Internet has helped all of us to reach out into the world and become more connected with one another, as well as more informed.

This increase in knowledge and constant connection, however, makes it difficult to unplug and take a break. Now more than ever before, it really is too easy for our work duties to bleed over into our personal lives. Each of us is constantly “plugged in” and “on,” and multi-tasking as we’re on the go checking our emails, and returning phone calls, nearly around the clock. Add additional pressures to this scenario, such as the constant push to get more done at work with fewer resources, and you have the perfect recipe for stress related illnesses.

With this constant immersion in activity, it really should not come as a surprise to anyone that stress from our personal and professional lives is taking a toll. We see the results in the form of an increase in the number of sick days taken at work. More subtly, we see the results of stress taking a toll on the mental health of those that we work with, as well as ourselves.

“It is estimated that 45 per cent of Australians will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime. These conditions tend to affect individuals during their prime working years.”

Why the Mental Health of Your Team Matters

According to data reported by Heads Up and The Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance, depression and other forms of mental illness are costing Australian businesses nearly 11 billion dollars each year. In addition to an increase in the number of sick days taken by employees, mental illness affects the morale and engagement of all employees and results in a decrease in productivity and efficiency.

Not only does turnover increase, but untreated mental health issues among associates can lead to an increased risk of loss, and a potential negative impact on the reputation of your business. Finding ways to manage, and improve, the mental health of your employees by creating a healthy workplace is fast becoming one of the most important challenges that leaders at all levels face.

Signs Your Team’s Mental Health Maybe at Risk

An important first step in managing the mental health of your team is to look for signs that may point to an increased risk of mental illness. Depression and anxiety are the two most common forms of mental illness.

Understanding their symptoms can help you to identify associates who are at risk so that you can take proactive steps to reduce their level of stress at work as well as potentially make referrals for employee assistance so that workers can get help coping with symptoms associated with illness.

“1 in 5 Australian adults will experience a mental illness in any given year”

Common Signs of Depression

It’s normal for all of us to feel a bit down at times. After all, each of us faces obstacles and disappointments that can be quite challenging to cope with and overcome. Depression, however, is more than feeling a little out of sorts.

Most healthcare professionals advise that symptoms of true depression last two weeks or longer, and can include an increase in feelings of anger, unhappiness and disappointment. Someone suffering from depression may also feel overwhelmed, and feel unconfident, sad, and be indecisive.

They may withdraw from their peers and normal circle of friends and other contacts. It becomes hard for them to concentrate and they may miss even the simplest of deadlines. Often they will call in sick to work, and may turn to alcohol or other chemicals in an effort to cope with their symptoms.

“Untreated depression results in 6 million working days lost each year in Australia”

Common Signs of Anxiety

Anxiety often develops over a period of time, and while there are different types of anxiety, symptoms are often more subtle and harder to spot than the symptoms commonly associated with other types of mental illness. Most people who experience anxiety feel that they are always on edge and can’t relax. They may feel a sensation of panic or hysteria and constantly worry and be unable to relax and “let down” their guard against a real or perceived threat. Feelings of anxiety can produce physical symptoms as well, such as an increased heart rate and elevated blood pressure as well as difficulty sleeping.

Your team member may suffer from anxiety if you notice that they are easily startled, or appear to be under constant tension. They may start to avoid meetings or specific people or locations within your facility. They may adopt obsessive behaviors or rituals in an attempt to find relief and relax. They may become less assertive and avoid making decisions as well as avoiding eye contact with others.

It’s important to remember that just because a member of your team seems to exhibit these symptoms; it doesn’t mean that they have an actual mental illness. Whether or not a member of your team exhibits these symptoms, there are a number of steps that leaders can take to reduce the amount of stress which may contribute to the development of these and similar symptoms.

Don’t forget to check back for a follow-up post where you can learn more about the proactive steps that you can take to create a healthier workplace that reduces the stress that your team faces.

Stay tuned for the Mental Matters Leadership Summit in Brisbane!

Phone 1300 719 665 or +61 424 447 616

www.soniamcdonald.com.au

sonia@soniamcdonald.com.au

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