It is well-documented that big life events like divorce or redundancy can cause mental ill-health initially, but being overwhelmed, undervalued, or ‘change’ within the workplace can lead to mental illness making a recurrence.
Employers should be aware than what might be considered normal workplace events for some, could cause a mental health illness relapse in others. These events include but are not limited to:
· being given an unexpected new project/new remit
· a promotion/being overlooked for a promotion
· change of location – either a desk move or to a different site altogether
· additional responsibilities, such as managing a new team
· being given a new line manager
· being excluded from decisions or teams
· long-term lack of gratitude from the employer
In fact, any change, especially unplanned or where the individual was not party to the change, could trigger a new episode.
As well as external factors such as someone’s workplace being a cause of mental health relapses, much is of course also down to the individual themselves: some employees are able to completely stay on top of previous mental ill-health but for many, it can be an everyday battle or can fluctuate from time to time.
Regardless of what triggers a relapse, it not only makes good business sense to look after employees with depression, but it also ensures compliance with legislation as the Department of Work & Pensions recently found out to its cost; a member of its staff with long-term depression was awarded £35k at employment tribunal for being denied the ability to work flexibly.
While most employers will be sympathetic if they know an individual has a history of mental ill-health, a new employee may not willingly reveal their past and so it can be difficult to plan ahead to manage the situation. For this very reason, if an employee’s mood deteriorates, an employer should respond quickly and ideally provide early intervention, so problems do not fester and ultimately make an individual very unwell again. Often confidential, third party support allows employees, both long standing and more recent hires, to feel more able to open up about their problems.
Mental health issues don’t always relapse but this Mental Health Awareness Week we’re asking employers to be vigilant that some staff may be battling ongoing depression or other types of mental health conditions on a daily basis.
Once an employee opens up, employers need to be able to quickly signpost employees to the right sort of help and make reasonable adjustments to their working practices depending on the individual’s changing circumstances.