REACH OUT when you notice significant changes in behaviour, mood or appearance that last MORE THAN TWO WEEKS. 

Consider whether the changes you have noticed are due to a MENTAL HEALTH issue, remembering that mental health SYMPTOMS WILL DIFFER between individuals.


Opening up a mental health conversation with a colleague you are worried about can be vital in encouraging help-seeking and early intervention. Given that suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians aged 15-44, these conversations can, in some cases, be life-saving.

Most individuals spend one-third of their adult lives at work (WHO, 1994), so managers and co-workers are in a privileged position to recognise and respond to mental health issues in the workplace. However, it is often difficult to recognise when someone is experiencing a serious mental health issue, or if they are just experiencing normal dips in emotional wellbeing or transient stress.

This edition of EAP News explores when to approach a staff member if you have concerns about their mental wellbeing. 

Rule of thumb: A significant change in usual functioning that lasts for more than two weeks.

The research states that noticeable changes in a person’s behaviour, mood, thoughts, and/or appearance that last for more than two weeks may be an indication that they are dealing with a significant mental health issue (as opposed to just having a few ‘off’ days).

Some changes that you may notice/look out for in the workplace include:


  • – Not enjoying or engaging in hobbies they once did
  • – Taking on an excessive amount of new work
  • – Not performing to their usual standard (e.g., not meeting deadlines or making mistakes)
  • – Struggling to accept constructive feedback
  • – Arriving late and/or taking unplanned absences
  • – Reduced interaction or increased conflict with coworkers
  • – Increased use of alcohol or cigarettes
  • – Talking or behaving irrationally



  • – More irritable or snappy
  • – Appear unusually anxious/worried about things
  • – Reacting more emotionally than usual or more than is warranted by the situation, including crying
  • – Overwhelmed by tasks that they previously found manageable



  • – Looking tired
  • – Weight loss or gain
  • – Seeming more fidgety or moving slower than usual
  • – Talking much faster/slower than usual



NB: While the thoughts listed below are characteristic of mental ill-health, we recognise that no one can read someone else’s thoughts. All we can do is look out for signs of these thoughts, such as through conversation or behaviour observance.

  • – Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • – Struggling to see a positive side
  • – Thinking the worst of situations
  • – Taking things personally
  • – Feeling confused or 
  • – Having difficulty switching off


Importantly, not every presentation of mental ill-health will show these characteristic signs – rather it is best to pay attention to any changes that are out of character for that person.  

Although these presentations may we