It’s impossible to look at your smart phone, tablet, computer or television without seeing or hearing a story of personal hopelessness, desperation or sadness. Often depression, anxiety and loneliness can be affiliated with winter months, or the stress of the holiday season, or the recent passing of a loved one. But as situations become more complex in our society and the world continues to change, it is very possible that personal feelings of nervousness, sadness or concern may carry over into the workplace. Many states and the federal government provide for leave of absence when an employee is impaired by a qualifying illness, including mental impairment.

It may not be easy for an employee to address private and sensitive matters concerning a mental impairment with Human Resources or a supervisor – and an employer must always remember to balance the privacy rights of the employee and not ask impermissible questions. Keeping that in mind, it is important for peers, co-workers and supervisors to be vigilant and speak up if an employee seems to be increasingly despondent, has frequent episodes of crying at his desk, or outwardly expresses feelings that may infer he wants to harm himself or others. Speaking up to the appropriate department leaders or Human Resources may be necessary and it might be the catalyst for that employee to seek treatment.

For employees that are feeling overwhelmed, anxious or depressed, here are a few options:

  • Leave of Absence. Employees in California may qualify for leave under the Family Medical Leave Act, the California Family Rights Act and/or the Americans with Disabilities Act. Most state and federal-sponsored leaves do not require that an employee disclose the nature or severity of a qualifying impairment, however, medical certification may be requested for the employer’s review. Certain eligibility requirements may apply.

  • Take a Vacation. Most employees work day-after-day never utilizing available or accrued paid time off or vacation hours. If this benefit is available, it is recommended that a vacation is taken (at least once per year) with proper approval. This is a perfect time to re-focus, relax, spend time with friends and family and completely unplug!!! Sometimes a few days out of the office is what is needed to clear the mind and gear up for the months ahead.

  • Take a Walk. Take advantage of the summer weather and skip the breakroom. Facilities and weather permitting, take a short walk on your rest break or eat your lunch outside. Getting some fresh air in your lungs and enjoying the sun, is a great way to step outside of your work zone and may improve your overall mood. If you have a work buddy, ask that they walk with you and engage in lighthearted conversation about something other than work.

  • Talk to Someone. Most employers don’t employ an onsite counselor, but if an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is available – call and inquire on free or low-cost counseling services that may be available. If an EAP is not an option, try talking to someone you trust, it can be a co-worker, HR representative, friend, family member, physician or an advice hotline. The world is full of people who want to help and they are only a phone call, email or text message away.

For employees who are feeling good – high on life (not in the medicinal or recreational sense!) and have kindness to share, don’t let the workday end without spreading some positivity and encouragement to those nearby. It could be the kind word or gesture that changes the course of someone’s day.

This article is not and should not be taken as medical advice or counseling services. Nothing can replace the advice and treatment of a trained, licensed professional. For more information regarding Family Medical Leave, visit www.dol.gov/whd/fmla. For information regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act, visit www.ada.gov. Individuals in distress and in need of immediate help may contact 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-8255 or www.SuicidePreventionLifeline.org.