How to recognise mental health issues amongst your staff (10 warning signs)

Jul 7, 2020 | Business, Employment, Wellbeing

Here at ASfB, we truly value the well-being and mental fitness of our employees and so we would like to also spread awareness to our clients. This article includes some information on how to recognise and help someone with mental health issues as well as a downloadable FREE E-Book on reaching mental fitness. 

Mental health problems are something that people often don’t talk about and it gets forgotten, but it is very much an ongoing issue. In fact, one in four adults in Britain experience some sort of mental health issues throughout each year and these numbers are only growing. Usually it is in a form of depression or anxiety, but there are many other, less common mental health disorders.  Mental illness impacts all areas of an individual’s life, from personal relationships to productivity and motivation at work.

These shocking numbers also mean that, as a business owner, you have a high chance of employing a person that suffers from mental health issues. This will be difficult to recognise, as your employees will not talk about it or will even try to hide it. However, looking out for any possible mental health problems amongst your employees is vital. It does not only affect the well-being of that person, but also has some impacts on your company and the rest of your team.

There are some common warning signs that an individual with mental health issues will show and you should look out for them. If you notice any of these, your employee is likely in need of help.

10 Warning signs that your employee suffers from mental illness

Changes in appearance

A person that has mental health issues may find it difficult to keep up their appearances, as it’s probably not the first priority in their minds. Look out for inappropriate dressing at work and poor hygiene.

Mood swings and erratic behaviour

A mentally ill person can struggle to control their emotions, so you may notice a change in behaviour: the employee may become very emotional, have extreme highs and lows in moods that change very quickly.

Taking a lot of time off 

If you notice someone taking out a lot of holiday or sick days (more than they would normally do) it is likely that they suffer from mental health issues. While they might simply need a day off, mental illness can also cause physical problems that require some time off work.

Easily irritated and angered

Being anxious and stressed means you also get frustrated and irritated quite easily. Keep an eye out for employees that get angry at their co-workers or general work issues when it is not actually reasonable.

Withdrawal from social activities 

People who suffer from anxiety tend to be at their worst when they have to be in social situations. If you see that one of your employees tends to always withdraw from team activities, that is likely why. Especially if they previously used to happily attend them.

Lack of productivity

 Mental health issues have significant impacts on the person’s ability to be productive, motivated and focused. Therefore, if someone’s productivity has decreased drastically for an extensive period of time, this may be a sign of a deeper issue.

Unnecessary fear and worry 

Anxious people will likely show signs of fear for a variety of unnecessary things, for example paranoia about losing their jobs, getting on with their co-workers and employees, getting simple everyday work tasks done. Being overly anxious is not a normal routine for most people.

Moments of confusion

Notice if a person becomes confused and incapable of doing a task, struggling to get focused or solve a problem. More often than not such confusion is a result of mental illness.

Changed eating and sleeping habits 

This may be hard to notice as an employer, since you don’t know what your employees are up to when they are home. However, you can notice such things as quick weight loss or gain, not eating any lunch at the workplace or dark undereye circles that indicate insomnia.


Many people that suffer from depression pick up addictions as a way to self-medicate. It can be anything from drugs, alcohol and smoking to gambling. This is usually one of the most urgent signs that your employee needs help as it may lead to even bigger issues.

What can you do to help

If you suspect that one of your employees may be experiencing mental health problems of any kind, it is essential to take action. It is important, however, that you don’t just approach the employee without a plan, as it might make things worse. Here’s some tips on what to do in such situation:

  • Don’t jump to conclusions. Although most of these warning signs are fairly accurate in indicating mental health issues, you never know what is going on in your employees’ personal lives. Therefore, it is not your place to diagnose them, you can only observe and ask if there’s anything going on.
  • Consult an expert. Ideally you want to consult someone from the human resource department or anyone else that is more experienced in this area. They will likely have dealt with such situations in the past and can give you valuable advice on how to approach it.
  • Be empathetic. Mental health issues are a lot different than, let’s say, performance- related issues. It is essential to keep in mind that it is not your employee’s choice or wish to feel this way and they don’t have a lot of control over it. So, try to be as empathetic as possible to their issues, concerns, personal problems and needs.
  • Keep it private. Mental illness is not something your employee wants to make known around the company. If you decide to have a conversation with them, make sure it is just between you two and your employee feels safe and respected.
  • Provide them with opportunities to seek professional help. It is only your employee’s choice to seek help, so they shouldn’t feel pressured into doing it. However, you need to show them that they have your full support with whatever they decide.

If you can, provide them with resources on what they can do and where to seek help. Some great UK mental health organisations include Acas, Mental Health At Work, Mind and Mental Health Foundation; or for the Dorset area specifically –  Dorset Mind and Unity Dorset.

Other resources

We also have a great E-Book on how to reach peak mental fitness with some valuable tips and resources on well-being. Feel free to have a read and share it with your team. You can access by clicking the button below:


All in all, mental health issues are something that should never be ignored. However, it can be difficult to acknowledge it and seek help if you feel this way. Most people don’t even realise themselves that there is a reason behind them feeling sad, demotivated, frustrated and so on. As their employer and mentor, it is your job to support your team with any issues they are facing, work-related or personal life.