When should you approach a member about their mental health?

May 4, 2017

If you are concerned about a member’s mental health, you may want to see if they would like to have a conversation with you. This can be tricky, so you’ll want to show openness and empathy.

You can’t know if someone else is struggling with their mental health, but there are signs they might be. The American Psychological Association lists several warning signs: Warning-signs-of-mental-illness. They include losing interest in being around other people, losing interest in everyday tasks or not being able to perform them, sudden changes to behaviour, and grandiose or illogical thinking.

Remember that people can behave very differently from what you expect for reasons that have nothing to do with mental illness. Your job is not to diagnose, but provide advocacy and support for a member. But if you see sudden changes in behaviour or performance, they might be related to mental health.

You may also want to try and find out if mental health is an issue for a member facing discipline. If it is, you can advocate for the member and have it dealt with as a health issue—so they can get treatment and support instead of being disciplined.

4 things to think about before starting a conversation:

  • Are you the right person? Do you have a good relationship with the member? Do they trust you?
  • Are you able to respect the member’s privacy and not share information about them with their consent?
  • How is your own state of mind or mental health? Do you have a history that might make this conversation difficult for you?
  • This could be a long process. Are you prepared to talk to and work with the member over many conversations?