Health / Mental Health Crisis in the Workplace

This article is directed for those transitioning back into work after going through a health or mental health crisis, and for their supervisors.

Work is essential, even in the midst of some of life’s crisis that can occur. Therefore, it is essential that we know how to transition back into work when facing a health or mental health crisis and that we have the support of our supervisors. This article will specifically look at the Fennell Four Phase Model that was designed to help employees and employers in this situation. 

There are four stages of crisis to be considered, the first is the crisis itself. This is when a person gets the news of something that has happened, receives a diagnosis, or faces a trauma. When this happens, this person is most likely operating in survival mode and may be experiencing high levels of depression and/or anxiety.  This then disrupts their normal life and they have to enter stage two, which is stabilization. In this stage a person is processing their trauma, grieving, or receiving some treatment. Often times, the stabilization phase is met with lots of outside care and support. This stage usually happens before the person is returning back to work. Stage three is the resolution phase. This phase is when the person is expected to return to normal day to day living, return to work, and in a sense, move forward with acceptance of what has occurred or resulted from their crisis. The last stage is the integration stage, this is when the individual is able to continue living with newfound meaning and goals. Sometimes crisis can ruin our sense of self and often times we have a find a new way to feel the way we used to feel in life, that can be scary and hard to do and needs to be met with continued support.

So, employers, when your staff take a personal leave for any type of crisis, it is important to understand that when they came back to work, they are in the middle of stage three, they may still be operating in survival mode and may still be having lots of stress, anxiety, or depression. It is important to meet them where they are at. Every individual is different and its ok to work with them individually as they get back into the swing of work life. Employers may want to check in with the individuals and make sure they are getting the work care they need and make sure the employee knows that they have support. Having reasonable expectation for staff undergoing crisis and having a safe place to communicate needs and stress levels may help the individual feel supported and be able to peacefully transition back into a normal work flow.

Employees, when you face crisis in your life, remember to give yourself time to go through each phase. Often times, we don’t want to sit with the hurt, but we need to and it’s ok to seek help from family, friends, or even a counselor when doing so. It is also ok to reach out to your supervisor if you find yourself struggling in the work place as you process stages three and four of the crisis model. Asking for help or support is never a bad thing! We all have different crises that will happen in our lifetime, so let’s support and encourage one another! Let’s change our work culture and environment to be more caring about each other, to provide each other with support, and to help each other in times of emotional need. This all starts with understanding.

By Leanne Jimenez APC
The Marriage Point

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