Sometimes you may openly discuss and seek support from within your team at work when facing personal or workplace challenges. This provides an informal pathway to check in and validate your feelings. It also gives you an opportunity to actively encourage a colleague who is expressing concerns to seek support.
Colleagues may not openly discuss their personal and/or professional challenges and they may not be aware of the consequences that their health issues are having on their work performance or collegial relationships. They may also be fearful or ashamed to acknowledge that a health issue may be affecting their job performance.
It’s important to acknowledge that concerning behaviours may be early warning signs that a colleague could be developing a physical or mental health issue (including substance use dependence) that could affect their ability to work.
Alternatively, the changes in behaviours and subsequent observations may be indicative of serious existing health issues. Regardless of the above scenarios, if you have identified concerns relating to a colleague’s health or practice, you should act on these concerns.
Depending on your relationship with a colleague, a first step might be to have a confidential and private conversation with your colleague about your concerns. Use a simple, caring and compassionate approach like, “Is everything okay? I am concerned as I have noticed...”.
If during this conversation your colleague confirms your concerns, you can encourage them to seek appropriate professional support and to speak with their manager.
Sensitive discussions relating to health concerns can be difficult. Many people report a sense of relief when their health issue is identified so support and treatment can start. If you are uncomfortable about raising your concerns with a colleague, or the situation requires immediate attention (for example, if you are aware that your colleague is working while intoxicated on drugs or alcohol), then it is essential that you speak with a manager or education provider.
If you are a registered dental practitioner you have a professional and legal obligation to report colleagues who may display concerning behaviour that could harm clients or patients.