Mental health: how to refer, who to refer to, what to look out for
Workplaces are so much more than just the place people go to work. Often, they are social hives of activity, within which people form close bonds, friendships and alliances.
Every day, we laugh together, share stories, experience new things, celebrate wins and mourn losses. The fact is, we see each other — at our best and worst — as much, if not more, than we see our own families.
In this month’s Mental Health series article we step back and take a look at how you and your team mates can support each other better, especially when it comes to mental health, and where you can seek help when you or your colleagues need it.
Managing mental health isn’t just a personal responsibility, it’s also a professional responsibility. Especially when we work in environments that can be highly-pressurised, stressful and demanding.
It’s rare you ever hear a real estate agent happily chatting away about how easy their job is, how much spare time they have, or how little people demand of them.
Real estate offices are absolutely some of those highly-pressurised workplaces, and as such, we need to make sure we keep an eye on the people we work with and recognise when they may need some extra support.
In big, corporate businesses there has been a strong move, over the last decade, to provide better mental health training to managers and staff.
Large companies hold awareness events, offer free counselling services by external professionals, and many managers are equipped with resources that help them identify possible issues in employees and refer them to a reliable and expert source for help.
In a spot survey of agents undertaken by one of EAC’s associates, real estate employees noted their offices often have no structured approach to mental health support or help-seeking, no access to counselling, and their manager — as far as they were aware — received no training on this front.
In searching out resources to help managers in the industry better equip themselves, we found relevant, purpose-created tools and information scarce at best. This is despite the massive fluctuations that can occur in the market, resulting in job or financial insecurity, and the demanding expectations on all office employees.
How to identify a team mate who needs support
People are full of emotions, and in an industry like real estate that has so many ups and downs, it’s not unusual to see many of those emotions come into play during an average work week.
What can be difficult is knowing if a team mate is experiencing a healthy response to a situation, or if they are struggling more than usual and need some extra help.
Understanding what to look for — the signs and symptoms — can be a great way to know if your colleague just needs a chat or a shoulder to lean on, or if perhaps, they need some more professional help. Keep in mind, not everyone’s experience with mental health is the same, so not everyone will show the same signs. Here are some signs to look for:
- When productivity slides: sometimes people hit a rough patch or they can’t seem to make the change in the market work for them, this can just be part-and-parcel of our industry. If, however, you notice a colleague is having trouble getting to work on time (and this is unusual) or at all, can’t seem to focus, is unmotivated and their productivity is slipping, it might be helpful to offer some extra support.
- When appearance slides: if you have a colleague who is usually dressed to impress and carefully-groomed, but starts to turn up looking unkempt or dishevelled, this may be a sign they need some help.
- When behaviour changes: it may seem obvious, but look for differences in demeanour, like nervousness or excessive worry, or someone who is quicker to anger or irritable. It’s also useful to watch for instability in behaviour or mood, a quick swing from one mood to another.
- When social interaction declines: if a previously social person becomes withdrawn, removes themselves from social situations or stops engaging with other people, perhaps see if they need a chat.
- When sleep, weight or appetite change: of course how much we weigh, eat and sleep can fluctuate naturally, but if a colleague mentions trouble sleeping or you notice their appetite changing or weight changing, it may be time to reach out.
While it is important we all take note, help and support each other, it is also critical you know you are not responsible for the mental health of a colleague or personally ‘fixing’ any issues they may have. Even so, you can point them in the right direction of some extra help.
Who can provide extra help?
Fortunately in Australia, we have some absolutely amazing resources and organisations available to people who need help — and many of them are free.
Below is a list of organisations to which you can reach out or refer colleagues. Remember, there is no shame at all in asking for help, it’s something more of us should do more often!
- Beyond Blue
Beyond Blue provides support for issues associated with depression, suicide, anxiety disorders and other related mental disorders.
Call 1300 22 4636
Lifeline is a 24-hour crisis support and suicide-prevention service. If a colleague is having suicidal thoughts, depression, anxiety, is lonely or going through a crisis or is feeling very stressed, the trained team at Lifeline can provide someone who will listen and provide support.
Call 13 11 14
- Blackdog Institute
A research-based organisation and part of the University of NSW, Blackdog offers excellent resources about a range of mental illnesses. It’s a great first place to start some well-informed research.
- My Compass
A free desktop app by the Blackdog Institute, My Compass is a personalised self-help tool for mental health. By entering just a little information, it provides a program of activities to help you manage thoughts and feelings you are struggling with. This is a great initiative to share with colleagues as a way to open up the conversation about mental health and support in your office.
In addition to these recognised more general support centres, there are a vast number of services that cater to particular groups, issues and situations. The NSW Government has a great list with full contact details and opening hours.
Keep in mind the Australian Government also fosters a proactive approach to mental health care by providing access to some paid support services through Medicare.
When we all spend so much time at the office, often it can be a work mate who notices when something just isn’t ok with you. Make sure you look around and take note of other people so you can ensure they receive support if they need it.