By Brian Birch
The stressful nature of work in snow and ice can, unfortunately, can lend itself to all sorts of health issues, including obesity, dehydration and mental illness.
Keeping in mind that things like depression and anxiety are linked to genetics, we must still be vigilant that the work we are asking employees to do can lead to sleep deprivation, stress, and other unhealthy patterns. Coupled with the general ‘seasonality’ and working in the dark, this could be a potent cocktail of trouble for someone already prone to depression, anxiety or other mental health problems.
Remember that many symptoms can also be the result of lack of sleep, but if ongoing concerns persist you may be dealing with a deeper issue. It is also important to remember that men and women sometimes exhibit symptoms differently. Depression
Depression is a medical diagnosis that should be done by a trained physician. Your role is to ensure the safety of your employees and anyone who might interact/work with them. Symptoms include:
- Feelings of helplessness
- Anger or irritability
- Trouble concentrating
- Unexplained pains/aches
- Reckless behavior (gambling, substance abuse, etc.)
- Loss of energy
- No interest in hobbies or passions
- Appetite loss or loss of weight
- Sleep disturbances (sort of moot in this industry!)
Anxiety is another mental health issue that can impact performance and health at your company. Generally, symptoms can be broken down into emotional symptoms and physical ones:
- Issues with concentration due to nervousness (vs. fatigue
- Super-vigilant in normal scenarios/always looking out for dange
- Expecting the worst
- Restlessness or irritability
- Panic attacks/feeling like they are having a heart attack
- Upset stomach
- Frequent urination or diarrhea
- Shortness of breath
- Tense muscles/inability to relax/shaky
- Feeling weak
While you can’t truly help someone who is suffering from depression or anxiety, you can help your entire team become more aware of the issues. Post information in the office about the symptoms, and embed the training into your safety training programs.
Managing the situation
If you recognize a combination of symptoms, don’t make any assumptions and don’t be an armchair doctor or life coach – you have no idea what might be going on in their lives. Monitor the situation and make decisions based on policy related to safety and performance at the company. Your role is to ensure the employee is contributing and being safe; if they are not due to depression or anxiety, you need to focus your discussions with them on the work-related outcomes and not the symptoms. Never demean their feelings or indicate that they are being weak. Encourage them to talk to their loved ones or see a physician if they discuss or share information with you.