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Written by Claire Bennett – Mental Health Practitioner
Throughout the pandemic, I have trained hundreds of people on how to spot signs of someone experiencing poor mental health and what they can do to help those people. One of the biggest challenges that people feel they face is supporting those people who are working remotely. Many of us believed this would be a short-term problem initially – I think it’s now pretty clear that how we work and where we work is going to change for the foreseeable. With a combination of remote and office working, or some roles moving to remote working permanently, we need to think more long term about how to use our skills in spotting signs of poor mental health in a different way.
The way in which we support someone remains pretty similar to supporting someone face to face. We would still listen without judgement and empathise with how they are feeling. We would still need to signpost them to further support and discuss the options that would work best for them. However, the ways in which we identify initially that someone may be experiencing challenges with their mental health may be different.
Getting to know people and how they behave when interacting remotely is important. We all know the personalities of our colleagues, or if someone is new we take the time to get to know them. We should still be adopting this approach remotely, too. For example, if we know that a colleague usually keeps their camera on during video calls, but lately have been turning it off at meetings, that could be a sign that something is amiss. If someone becomes difficult to get hold of, or they are ignoring phone calls or messages then again this could be a sign that they are experiencing challenges.
We get many signs from being physical in front of someone such as a facial expression or body language. Whilst we still may be able to pick up on a few of these signs if using video technology, we must remember that we can also tell quite a lot by the pace, pitch and tone of someone’s voice. Someone who is usually quite cheerful on the phone now sounds monotone or like they aren’t engaging in your conversation; this again could be a sign and may trigger you to ask if they are okay, as they don’t seem themselves.
Continuous comfortable communication is important. That’s to say that we aren’t just forgetting to keep in touch because we don’t see people; we maintain contact that doesn’t feel like we are harassing someone, but it’s comfortable enough for that person to not feel alone.
We can still encourage self-help tools; there are many online and lots of new support for those working remotely. Discussing the options out there and how remote staff would feel about using them could make all the difference.
As we enter this new world and think about adapting our approach, we must remember that looking out for one another is still a priority.
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