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Mental Health Awareness Week: Supporting employees with mental health conditions

To mark Mental Health Awareness week the Irish News is running a series of articles on the subject. Here Managing Director of Health Assured David Price explains how an employer can support an employee with a mental health condition

Mental ill health affects one in four people and with 40 per cent of all absence being mental health related it will be natural for you to have employees who are supporting family members with mental health conditions.

The laws have recently changed to recognise that there are times when employees need some time off for dependants. We may be guilty of assuming this will be needed for child care or a partner taking suddenly ill, however, there could be times when this is due to someone being mentally unwell.

As an employer there is a lot you can do to support your employee while ensuring the business functions continue. The most important thing you can do is encourage your employee to discuss what is going on for them. Quite often people supporting loved ones with mental health conditions may be afraid to disclose what is really happening for fear of judgement. Let them know that you recognise this is just the same as someone being physically ill and you want them to know they can talk to you.

Once you have opened up clear lines of communication you can start exploring what is happening and what could occur that would impact on the business. It wouldn’t hurt to try and formulate a care plan where they identify scenarios that would mean they would not be able to fulfil their duties and ask them to think of solutions that can help minimise the impact. This way you are showing support and understanding while empowering them to maintain a clear link to their place of work.

When looking after other people we can offer suffer from excess stress, anxiety and over load. Encourage your employee to also look after themselves and recognise when symptoms could have a negative effect on them and their ability to attend work.

If you have an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) encourage them to use it. 

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