For the next in the series of Mental Health in Security blogs, we will address two of the most common mental health conditions affecting our colleagues in the industry, Anxiety and Depression.
You may wonder why we haven’t included stress; this is because stress is not considered a mental health condition – something we will explain – so we will dedicate a future blog to stress in the coming months.
Mental Wellbeing in the Workplace
1 in 6 people in the workplace are dealing with a mental health problem, whether anxiety, depression, or stress. When suffering from a mental health issue, it can affect performance and people being at their best.
Businesses operate better with a healthy and happy workforce. In security, a pressured job with unexpected curveballs and potentially dangerous situations, it is vital that our colleagues are motivated and focused, something that can be extremely difficult when also dealing with poor mental health.
Therefore, we must understand what to look for in our colleagues and provide them with the proper support as and when they need it.
We have all felt the effects of anxiety in our lives. It can manifest in several ways, with differing effects on the individual. It can also increase in severity, leading to more extreme symptoms such as panic attacks over time.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is described as fear and unease, which is quite natural in some situations. It is an entirely natural response to pressure, feeling afraid or threatened – something many security officers may experience as part of their day-to-day role. Anxiety becomes a bigger problem when the person begins to worry about little things or relatively normal situations, leading to intense and overwhelming feelings that then interfere with daily life.
Noticing the Signs of Anxiety in Colleagues
Anxiety can affect a person’s mind, body, and behaviour, leading to feeling tearful and avoiding situations or people that can be a trigger. In security, this could result in some potentially dangerous situations escalating unnecessarily.
Common noticeable symptoms include:
- Looking tired and unrested.
- Being more irritable where it appears out of character.
- Shaking, trembling, or sweating more than usual.
- Not being able to concentrate.
- Unable to make decisions or “passing the buck.”.
- Constant drinking and complaining of a dry mouth.
- Talking and worrying about the past or the future or thinking something terrible is going to happen.
What to do if a colleague shows signs of anxiety
Approaching somebody about their mental health is a delicate and considered action. None of us are experts, but offering a listening ear is always the best start and can help them to open up to you.
Here are some things you can do…
- Ask them if they are ok.
- If it feels right, explain you are concerned and just wanted to make sure they are ok.
- Do not apply any pressure to talk; this could make the anxiety worse.
- Signpost them to a workplace EAP or Mental Health Service Provider.
If their work is being affected, privately speak to your manager or HR team to allow them to manage the situation on your behalf. Please don’t change how you are around them; treat them as usual and let your senior team and those with relevant training take over.
Depression is a complex issue and one that we cannot, without the proper training, identify in people easily. Depression often develops very slowly. Someone who is depressed doesn’t often realise or acknowledge that they are depressed.
Depression is often identified by a family member, loved one or carer – but can also become evident in a workplace team as your professional bond grows.
Someone who is depressed can show one, two or multiple signs, but it may only be noticeable to those close to them.
The Signs of Depression
There are lots of possible symptoms of depression, some of which only the person themselves can identify, but you may notice someone:
- seems to be feeling down, or maybe tells you they have been down for a little while as a passing comment.
- low confidence and self-esteem.
- has lost interest in things they used to enjoy:
- their job,
- hobbies or interest
- not attending work social events
- is more fidgety or restless than normal,
- looks anxious.
- their speech and movements seem a little slower.
- is either over-eating (constantly snacking) or has no appetite.
- sleeping in and/or often late for work.
- personal hygiene is slipping – they may appear unclean, teeth not brushed etc.
- clothes or uniforms unwashed or not washed regularly.
- has trouble concentrating on things like reading, watching TV or using a mobile phone.
There are also more severe symptoms, which require immediate escalation to management or HR, such as:
- Signs of self-harm may be noticeable, such as on the arms but may be hidden on the legs or upper arms. This should be immediately and delicately escalated.
- Suicidal thoughts – if any colleague mentions this in the workplace, it should immediately and delicately escalate.
If you need more clarification, seek help!
None of us are experts in mental health problems. Still, it is vitally important that we identify the signs and begin the journey of support for our colleagues.
If you are unsure or uncomfortable:
- Seek assistance.
- Speak to your manager.
- Identify a mental health first-aider.
- Contact the HR team.
For minor cases, ensure you have the details of the workplace mental health first-aiders, your EAP of mental health at work services, and your HR team.
If you are reading this and think you are being affected by either of these conditions, here are some excellent resources to take the first steps to improve your mental health. Remember, 1 in 6 of your colleagues will feel like you or may already be seeking help. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
Support websites and helplines:
- The Samaritans. Call 116 123 or email email@example.com for a reply within 24 hours.
- Shout Crisis Text Line: Text “SHOUT” to 85258
- Mind: You can find lots of advice and self-help information at www.mind.org.uk
All these services are completely anonymous, and no information will be passed to your employer.
- NHS 111 – Dial 111 from any phone and wait for instructions.
- Contact your GP.
- Or, in an emergency, dial 999.
Our next Mental Health in Security event will take place on International Mental Health Day, Tuesday 10th October. Registration will be open soon, but in the meantime if you would like to register your interest in attending or participating in the event, please contact: