It can be hard to see the red flag for mental health issues when you’re in the moment, but it’s impossible to see them if you don’t know what to look for. Below are three important signs of poor mental health:

Red flag 1: Sleeplessness and fatigue
Fatigue is often the first red flag people notice. The worst part is that it’s not always due to a lack of sleep. It’s frustrating getting a full night’s sleep and still being exhausted in the morning. If you are getting your recommended eight hours you might be in the minority. 

Neurologists have seen an almost 15% increase in the use of prescription sleep medication since the start of COVID-19. Research during March and April found that worry-related sleeplessness has shot up – in particular among female respondents – from 18.9 per cent in March to 31.8 per cent in April.

Sleeplessness and fatigue is a common sign of deeper mental health issues. But, there are ways to combat it. At night, you need to switch off. Stop checking emails, stop being distracted by work-related tasks. Prior to going to bed, it’s important that you do something you enjoy and it is actually relaxing. That could be a warm bath or shower. There are lots of mindfulness apps which take you through guided meditations and they can really help your brain switch to relax mode. Also consider writing down that to-do list before going to bed so you’re not mulling over it while you try to sleep. 

Red flag 2: Irritability and social withdrawal
We often see people withdrawing from others. That can be friends or family or others in the workplace. COVID-19 has made it more difficult to detect social changes in our colleagues as it i a lot harder to notice when someone is having a rough day if you can’t see them.

Sometimes people begin withdrawing from their own family or people they live with and spending more time in their bedroom or not wanting to spend time with their partner or family.

Irritability goes hand in hand with this social withdrawal. This can cause significant damage at work, as research shows our bad mood can influence others. It also has a snowball effect as we get frustrated at ourselves for our lack of emotional control.

It can be difficult to get out of that spiral. It takes time and work to notice when it’s happening, but if you can notice the spiral, it’s the first step to getting out of it. Step outside for a moment and take in your surroundings. If there is a park across the road, try to notice what’s in the park. If there is play equipment, what does it look like? Let yourself be distracted by these things and it will help you clear your mind.

Red flag 3: Lack of concentration
Not being able to concentrate is another common sign. Lack of concentration can then lead to feelings of anxiety or loss of motivation. Memory problems are another symptom of poor mental health which can be very frustrating at work. 

People may find it difficult to concentrate and complete simple tasks and they need to write everything down. When problems occur, they may find it difficult to problem-solve the situation and instead they will get more stressed and irritated by this change or challenge that they did not predict.

The frustration caused by this can make workers feel like they need to double down and work harder – leading to  burn out – or they might take the opposite route and try to put things off. 

Try to work in small bursts, if you can, instead of committing to large blocks of time spent working. If you’re working from home, your work isn’t broken up by chatting to your colleagues or other workplace distractions so the easiest way to replicate that is working in blocks of time. Maybe you can work for one and a half hours then step away from the computer for a bit.

It is also worth trying to work out when you are motivated. If you’re not on a deadline, maybe you work better in the afternoon or evening so organise your timetable to do more work then.

Help from the top
It is important leaders are aware of the red flags so they can help their employees. There are three ways employers can create an environment where staff feel comfortable coming forward about their concerns.

  1. Practice compassion: let employees know it’s “okay not to be okay”. If this isn’t established, workers will keep their heads down and that will only make things worse.
  2. Frequent communication: stay in touch with your employees and make sure you’re contactable when they need you. Many employees are currently feeling lonely. Keeping in touch could combat these feelings.
  3. Show vulnerability: staff often assume their leaders are indomitable. They are more likely to come forward with their struggles if they know you understand. 

It’s no longer just about how productive companies can be – the priority should be people. You can’t be commercially viable if you have a broken workforce.

Consider taking a Mental Health Screening Test: