9 Signs Your Employee is Struggling with Poor Mental Health


Mental health pertains to an individual’s mental state: their mood, thinking, feelings, and behavior. Unfortunately, mental health is still a sensitive subject in the workplace. Often, employees feel they must keep their struggles hidden for two main reasons: it’s somewhat of a societal ‘rule’, that feelings and emotions should not be discussed in the workplace (which is bizarre!). And secondly, employees fear they’ll be judged by their superiors and colleagues. 

Poor mental health issues can make life difficult for those suffering with it. It can cause individuals to take more time off work, feel fatigued quickly, impact their productivity and performance, and make it difficult to interact with those around them. 

1 in 5 people suffer with poor mental health, so chances are you’re working amongst someone, or more than one person, who is struggling right now. For this reason, it’s important to understand the warning signs, to better understand your people and colleagues, and to support them in the most effective way.

9 Signs Your Employee is Struggling with Poor Mental Health

  1. Mental health problems can result in mood swings and inconsistent emotions, where there may be extreme highs and lows. Behaviors may seem out of character.
  2. Easily irritated, frustrated, or angered: The anxiety and stress associated with mental health problems mean many people get frustrated or irritated easily. This can be noticed in how they approach projects or react to co-workers
  3. Taking or needing a lot of time off: Employers often associate mental health issues and time off with “mental health days.” While many people may just need a day off when suffering from a mental illness, these conditions can also cause a variety of additional, physical problems that require care and time away from work.
  4. Changes in eating or sleeping behaviors: People with mental health concerns may not show drastically evident symptoms, but even things like never eating at lunch, refusing to eat with co-workers, and a lack of sleep/insomnia are all serious signs of mental health issues looming.
  5. Moments of confusion or an inability to solve a problem: If you notice your employee is having a difficult time focusing, solving problems, or is easily getting confused, it could be a sign of a mental health issue.
  6. Unnecessary fear, worry, or anxiety: Employees with mental health problems may be paranoid about co-workers or employers, anxious about keeping their job, have fears about unnecessary things, etc. These fears and anxieties are typically beyond a normal rationale.
  7. A decrease in or lack of productivity: Whether it’s because of fatigue, lack of sleep, anxieties, or something else, mental health issues make it hard to focus and be productive. If you find an employee’s productivity is down, it may be a symptom of a deeper, mental illness.
  8. Withdrawal from social situations, especially with co-workers: Employees who seem withdrawn from co-workers and the social culture at the company may do so as a symptom of mental illness. Many people with mental health concerns suffer from isolation, loneliness, and self-loathing.
  9. Abuse of drugs, alcohol, or other vices: As a way to self-medicate, employees with mental health issues may turn to alcohol, drugs, food, sex, or another addiction. This is typically a more urgent sign that your employee needs help.

What to Do Next

An employee may not know that they have an issue with mental health or may be scared to talk to their employer about it. As mentioned, mental health can also be a very personal and sensitive topic of conversation to have between employees, co-workers, and employers. But no matter the difficulty of the situation, it’s important to handle mental health with care and urgency. Communication is vital.

Have you read our key takeaways from our recent wellbeing webinar?

How You Can Help

Find out how your people feel 

Pulse surveys are incredibly effective, they can help you to gauge the general mental health and wellbeing of your people. A host of questions can help you to ‘break the ice’ and begin the mental health and wellbeing conversation with your people. 

Consult with a mental health professional first 

Before conversing with such an employee it’s important to do your research and educate yourself on mental health and ways to support a person suffering. We suggest consulting with a psychologist or a trained mental health professional first. 

Educate the entire workforce on mental health and wellbeing

Education will help to make other employees more understanding of their colleagues who suffer with poor mental health. Discrimination and judgement needs to be weeded out asap. 

Provide your employees with space and freedom to express themselves 

Express your concerns by asking your employee if there is anything you or the organization can do to better support them. Be empathetic and understanding, and instead of listening to reply, just listen to the individual. Whether it be through the anonymous surveys or a one-to-one conversation, give your people the space to talk. 

Master Engagement Throughout the Employee Lifecycle