Is there a more uncomfortable subject to discuss with an employee except possibly personal hygiene issues? There so much social stigma around mental health issues—with many believing falsely that it is a sign of weakness, always permanent, difficult or impossible to treat or cure, people will look down on me, could I be losing my mind? All these are obstacles to people seeking treatment. As an employer, there are several things you can do to help your folks feel ok about getting help.

The first thing you can do is to promote the use of your EAP regularly throughout the year and normalize life stressors. Encourage folks to remember they have this benefit and to take advantage of it. Tell them, “We all went through Hurricane Harvey together. Use this as an example. Let them know, “Anyone who flooded certainly has stress, grief and loss, and trauma issues or you would NOT be normal! As I understand it, family conflict is also really common after a severe trauma or loss. Get help for yourself and your family members by using this benefit. There is no shame in asking for help. In fact, it takes more courage to ask for help than to pretend everything is fine when it isn’t.”

Secondly, keep an eye on your people for changes in behavior. If they were once high performers and now are missing deadlines, gaining or losing weight, complaining of vague somatic issues of insomnia, headaches and stomach or intestinal issues, missing workdays, tardy—all of these are signs of severe, unresolved stress. This may result from work or family troubles at home. It never hurts to ask as a caring person if everything is ok with them and offer your support. Make sure to tell them you do not want to butt in if they want to keep it confidential, but you are willing to help if you can. Let them know you can help if their workload is too much to handle. Whether they confide or not, remind

them again of their EAP benefit and that their medical plan also has counseling benefits (make sure it does when you shop plans, because every employee will encounter life crises at times and so will you—most of the time from your employees). This is especially important because if someone is experiencing IPV—Intimate Partner Violence—you need to know as their employer that someone could come on your premises and do harm to this employee and/or others.

Offer workshops on Avoiding Burn-Out as well as Workplace Violence which will cover cases of domestic abuse and how this is one of the main reasons people come on worksites to do harm. If someone ever comes to you saying they are

being stalked, ask them to supply a picture of the person to security if you have security, and if not, to the receptionist at a minimum, but all staff if they are willing. Instruct employees to call police if the person is spotted. Also, file a criminal trespass warrant on that person so police can arrest them if they return.

If an employee is deteriorating and you have done due diligence in disciplinary counseling, have given a written warning and improvement plan, you can—as part of that improvement plan–require them to attend EAP sessions for assessment and then to follow the recommended course of treatment by the provider. Test for substances (if that is in your handbook—otherwise you have to test 100% of employees or randomly test a percentage with that person randomly included. You can also request a note from EAP providers regarding attendance and participation, but usually not the content of sessions. You want the employee able to speak freely to the counselor so if there are issues on the job you don’t know about, the counselor can help. If the employee thinks you will find out, they may never discuss the issues—even if they do not involve you as the supervisor.

Try to keep the following in mind regarding workloads as well.

Remember that if an employee seems motivated to change, wants their job, but just cannot seem to change, they likely have an undiagnosed mental health issue and have little control over it. You cannot say you think that is
what it is of course, unless you’d like to get sued. Your language needs to say that you want them to succeed and go find out from a professional if anything is going on, that with help, could allow them to better control the behaviors they seem unable to control. Keep in mind that some disorders make people very successful at what they do, but they just can’t seem to get along with others socially. However, these folks do not suddenly change to become like this, they are always like this, but usually even worse at home. They try to control everyone in their relationships, which most folks do not like! If none of these interventions work, or the employee refuses to get an evaluation and treatment, you have done all you can possibly do.

Innovative Alternatives, Inc. has numerous EAP providers, and we are here to help. 713-222-2525.