Know the Tells: Tackling a Mental Health Crisis at Work

This month, National Mental Health Month, raises awareness about mental illness and related issues in the United States. Marchon Partners invites guest contributions and today we hear from C. Rosie Bauder on signs of poor mental health.

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How can you tell the difference between a coworker going through a tough time and one who is having a mental health crisis?

I host suicide prevention trainings sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Participants learn how to recognize signs someone who is in distress. We call these symptoms “tells” like the poker term for unconscious behaviors that betray an attempted deception. Although some communicate their feelings verbally, many others only portray their feelings through their non-verbal behavior.

If you see a tell in your coworkers, assume you are the only person who will reach out to them. People in crisis may not have the desire or the will to help themselves so it’s important to show compassion, let them know you care, and encourage them to seek mental health treatment.

Remember, everyone has bad days but how do you know if someone is actually in crisis? Suicide prevention training gives people the skills to help any person in crisis, not just someone who is thinking of suicide. Reaching out never hurts and may make the difference in the life of a friend, relative or coworker.

Learn the five signs of mental health distress from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Change Direction campaign:

1.     Personality Change
You may notice sudden or gradual changes in the way that someone typically behaves; for example, they may act in ways that don’t fit their personality.

2.     Agitation
A more common symptom of depression than sadness is irritability. You may notice the person has more frequent problems controlling their temper and seems irritable or short-fused.
 
3.     Withdrawal
A person in distress may withdraw from friends and family as well as from activities they once enjoyed.

4.     Poor Self-Care
You may see a change in a person’s grooming or level of personal care, or an increase in poor judgment and decision-making. They may use alcohol or other substances or engage in other self-destructive behaviors.

5.     Hopelessness
A person who is feeling hopeless may exhibit these other signs, or say “I just can’t do it anymore,” or “The world might be better without me,” or “I’m just a burden.” These statements can suggest suicidal thinking.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, reach out to your human resources representative, visit an emergency room, talk to a mental health professional, or talk to your doctor.

For Mental Health Awareness Month, do your part to fight suicide. Visit afsp.org/didyouknow and share an infographic to raise awareness about suicide prevention. You might just save a life.

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C. Rosie Bauder is the Greater Boston Area Coordinator for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

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