On Wellbeing

8th November 2023

Navigating mental health crises at work: effective strategies for supporting colleagues

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Discover how to create a supportive corporate environment to help employees manage mental health crises with immediate and compassionate action

Identifying a mental health crisis: key signs and immediate steps

Understanding when a colleague is experiencing a mental health crisis is pivotal in ensuring their safety and wellbeing. A crisis may manifest through various behaviours such as:

• Persistent suicidal thoughts

• Self-harm

• Intense anxiety or panic attacks

• Psychotic episodes including delusions or hallucinations

• Hypomanic or manic states

• Uncontrolled behaviour that poses a danger to themselves or others

Immediate support during critical moments

When you notice these signs, it's crucial to act swiftly. Engaging in conversations about the future or attempting to distract them with long-term perspectives may not be effective. Here's what you can focus on instead:

• Encourage them to concentrate on the present moment.

• Help them with short, five-minute grounding exercises, such as:

• Deep breathing

• Petting an animal

• Preparing a warm beverage

• Listening to a song

• Physical movement like star jumps or spot jogging

• Reading or drawing

After these five minutes, assess their state and decide if professional help is needed. Calling a crisis line such as the Samaritans (116 123 – free from any phone) or seeking external support is essential if risks persist.

Creating a culture of support and creativity

Evaluate whether your workplace has dedicated spaces where individuals can practice relaxation or distraction techniques. If not, consider how you can establish these areas, as the ability to take a break is crucial for everyone's mental health.

Enhancing wellbeing through creativity

Encourage creative outlets for all employees, as these activities can significantly bolster psychological resilience and coping strategies, especially in the wake of challenges like Covid-19. Consider these options:

• Writing or journaling to articulate feelings

• Cooking or baking as therapeutic practices

• Playing or composing music

• Gardening or engaging in crafts

By fostering an environment that values these practices, not only can employees navigate through moments of crisis, but they can also build long-term resilience and maintain better overall mental health.