Catching the wellbeing downward spiral before it's too late

“I spent a lifetime trying to create a 'front' to give everyone the illusion that all is well. It wasn't, and it isn't,” Ruby Wax, comedian, writer, and mental health campaigner. How can employers help those under the vice-like grip of mental ill health?
HR Grapevine
HR Grapevine | Executive Grapevine International Ltd
Catching the wellbeing downward spiral before it's too late
Are the signs of mental ill-health easy to spot?

I’m Not As Well As I thought I Was, is Wax’s new book in which she recounts the spiral into mental illness and the endless yo-yoing back and forth between bouts of optimism and the inevitable ensuing, ‘typhoons of mental torture.’ But while Wax is promoting a book, she is also addressing a state of mental malaise that is gripping the workplace.

You need only scour the newspapers to see that it’s not just a hot topic but one that is increasingly present on podcasts, TED talks, YouTube videos and magazine columns. It’s everywhere. The Telegraph reports, Why Britain’s mental health crisis threatens to doom a new generation while Country & Town House have a column dedicated to the UK Wellness Festivals to book now for 2024. There are ten to choose from, it says a lot about where we are as a nation on this issue.

There are over 200 forms of mental health problems, and some are more common than others – particularly anxiety and depression, especially post-Covid

Anna Eliatamby | Workplace wellbeing expert

Mind, the charity that has worked for over 60 years to help improve the lives of people with mental health problems reports that one in four people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year in England. That’s a quarter of the entire population or in a typical family of four, one person for the other three, a noticeable chunk of a Victoria sponge, 15 minutes out of the allotted 60 in an hour. You can feel where this is going. It’s a lot.

Spotting the signs

The difficulty is the fact that ‘no one is normal,’ everyone has days when they are finding it difficult and when their mental health is below par. The ‘grubby’ days, the one’s where a darkness descends, or you just feel it’s an effort to simply get out of bed, so how can businesses spot the signs?

Workplace wellbeing expert, Anna Eliatamby has helped the UN and global organisations develop mental health and wellbeing strategies and tackle toxic behaviours in the workplace. She is also co-author, with Grazia Lomonte, of Healing-Self Care for Leaders and their Teams.

“There are over 200 forms of mental health problems, and some are more common than others – particularly anxiety and depression, especially post-Covid,” says Eliatamby who offers the following signs that someone may not be coping:

  1. A decline in personal care
  2. Sleep and appetite change
  3. Odd behaviours
  4. Increased sensitivities
  5. Lack of tolerance and patience
  6. Being prone to anger and outbursts
  7. Not engaging with work or colleagues
  8. Drops in performance and functioning
  9. Feeling disconnected, suspicious, and nervous
  10. Mood swings and sometimes suicidal thoughts and intentions

Of course, if you read over these they could also be applied to a number of conditions: menopause, dementia, coping with grief or divorce, to name a few. So, it still begs the question, how does a line manager know?

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