Q: I manage a team of social workers and have recently discovered that some are taking anti-depressants. My dilemma is how to handle the situation because a colleague from another team told me. Should I talk to my staff and risk losing the confidence of my colleague? And how can I support my team when I know the reason they are depressed is partly to do with high workloads caused by a shortage of skilled staff?
A: It is vital to work alongside each person with mental health issues on their journey towards greater well-being. Talk to them individually to find out how they are and what type of support you can offer. Don’t raise the issue of anyone taking anti-depressants unless they bring it into the conversation. From these discussions, you are likely to have a better understanding of the issues affecting your team and ways in which you could help them.
You could also measure the well-being of your employees using a stress audit. This can identify the factors causing stress to your employees; you can then work together and in partnership with the staff to develop plans and processes to limit and eradicate these stressors in the future.
From the question there seems to be a more pressing issue over the possible undue pressures placed on your team due to a shortage of skilled staff. I would suggest you work with your human resources department in tackling this immediately. You should assess issues such as terms and conditions and benefits: are they competitive? If the team feels that you are proactively looking at the staffing issues and looking to help and support them, it is likely to help them in the short term.
It is also vital that you examine what learning and development opportunities are available to the team. As well as addressing the fundamental requirements for their jobs, they should also be offered continual professional development.
Your experiences highlight the importance of putting employees at the heart of decision-making and ensuring that the organisation’s efficiency is not put before the well-being of the people delivering the service.
Liam Cole is human resources manager at the mental health charity Together. More from www.together-uk.org
26 NOVEMBER question:
I am hoping to do an MA in social work but was convicted for benefit fraud in April last year for claiming benefits while a student. I received a four-month suspended sentence and 150 hours in community service. I also lost my job working with children with disabilities with a local authority, not because of my conviction but due to a dispute when I told my employer about the conviction. I also have convictions for shoplifting and theft from vehicle from 1993 (when I was 17) and a conviction for non-dwelling burglary from 1998. I can see how it looks like I am a habitual criminal but can now say with all honesty I will never commit an offence again. Can anyone tell me if this would bar me from starting a course and, if so, for how long – indefinitely?
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This article is published in the 12 November issue of Community Care magazine under the heaidng My team is on antidepressants