May is Mental Health Awareness month. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older — about one in four adults — suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.
As HR professionals, it is not uncommon to say or hear statements like "he's bipolar" or "she must have forgotten her meds today." We throw around these phrases, carelessly, without any knowledge of the situation. It is not a laughing matter, and I take those words personally. Last May, I lost a friend and this affected me tremendously. For the first time in my career, I followed the advice that I have given to my employees and took full advantage of my company’s employee assistance program (EAP) and all they had to offer. I was able to use those services for myself and share resources with family and friends.
We are not doctors. We are not trained to diagnose. We are not powerless, though. As HR professionals, we are trained to use our instincts, the resources available to us, and to act with the best intentions. If you see your top employee’s performance taking a sudden decline or that employee who just doesn't seem like himself, don't be afraid to reach out and ask how they are doing. Offer a place for them to talk. Make sure they know there are resources for them to reach out.
Don’t play armchair psychologist because you Googled something and feel you know what’s going on, but do know where the resources are. Call your EAP and get familiar with their offerings. Understand all of the resources available so you are able to recommend them to your leaders and employees. SHRM has some great resources available and reach out to your local chapter. Someone will help. Some organization will provide assistance. Your company is paying for these resources. Use them.
It has taken me almost a year to write this post. I have had some time to reflect on the past year, and I realize how important it is to care of ourselves and our employees as human beings. So much time is spent encouraging our employees to keep up with the next big thing even as many of us struggle to keep our own heads above water. It’s time to model better behavior and let others know that, if they are struggling, there is hope. There is help. There are resources available.
And if you work in HR and you find yourself struggling, confide in a friend. Trust me, they care for you and want to help. Go to your intranet if you don't want to bring it out in the open. But for god sakes, get some help. Do it for you, your friends and for your family.