Mental Health Assessments – What and Who are they for?

world mental health assessment

Because October is the month dedicated to mental health awareness, I continue to write on the theme. I often get asked about assessments that are scheduled for people to attend while absent from work.  They can cause some anxiety as it is not always clear to people what happens during them.

  • What are they?
  • Who benefits from them? and
  • What questions may be asked during an assessment?

These questions – and more, are all covered here.

Each person’s experience of mental health is unique to them, each day can be different – it can be unpredictable.  But perhaps you have noticed a change in somebody’s appearance, their behaviours, engagement in work and with colleagues, friends or family.

If, through your work or elsewhere, you are in a position to suggest or recommend a colleague to seek assistance, they may end up being referred for a mental health assessment.

I have a biassed view of assessments and see them as something positive – whatever the results!  The outcome will enable a focus on areas where there is room for improvement.  Sometimes there is lots of room for improvement that may not have been previously known because “That is the way we have always done things around here”. But, I digress…..

Assessments are vital in the process of supporting a person return to work after absence, but equally, they can assist a person to stay at work and avoid the absence altogether.

Is it the stigma attached to mental health that prevents a person from seeking this help?

Is it a fear within one person to have conversations about mental health with another?

If you know of someone who has been called for an assessment, here is some information to help you understand what an assessment is about.  This in turn may enable you to help them prepare or ease some anxiety they may be having in advance of the assessment.

Talk with them – but LISTEN to what they are telling you.

What is involved in a mental health assessment?

  1.     can assess an employee’s ability to perform their work role,
  2.     may make suggestions to help them,
  3.     it may also address some physical needs. 

The assessment (and subsequent report) may focus on the referrer’s specific questions, for example*:

  • What is the nature of the condition(s) the employee is experiencing?
  • How long have they been experiencing the condition?
  • What are the likely causes of the condition?
  • What treatment (if any) including medication is the employee currently receiving for the condition?
  • How does this condition impact an employee’s capacity to work?
  • Is the employee fit to continue working in their current role – or when might a return to work be anticipated?
  • There may be recommendations for reasonable accommodations eg. a phased return.

*This is not an exhaustive list, assessments are unique to each person and will address questions relevant to their circumstances.

What are the benefits of providing access to Mental Health Assessments for your Employees? 

  • It gives them an opportunity to have a detailed discussion with a healthcare professional regarding their health situation and work circumstance.
  • It may help them identify or access relevant services.
  • Help them identify any barriers to employment, such as medical issues, physical, cognitive, social, financial, psychological and emotional factors that may need to be addressed.

Are there any benefits for Employers? 

  • Provides guidance to you on how you can support your employee.
  • Sends a positive message about your organisation’s commitment to support the health and wellbeing of your employees.
  • Early intervention reduces both the risk of longer-term absenteeism and the pressure on other employees who remain in work.
  • Reduces work days lost by proactively managing the return to work process.
  • Saves you money by minimising absence management costs.

Who is a Mental Health Assessment suitable for? 

Suitable for an employee who is at work, but having difficulties performing job tasks, or is already on sick leave.

Where can you direct an employee to go if they are having a Mental Health Difficulty?

The family doctor is usually the first person to approach in relation to mental health concerns.

Many people attend their General Practitioner (GP) when they feel they need more support for their mental health.

In an emergency situation, and outside of GP hours, it is advised to attend your local accident and emergency department in your local hospital.

Source Mental Health Ireland

Here is a List of additional resources to support mental health:

Mental Health Ireland – 5 Ways-to-wellbeing /Mental Health-supports-and-services

Nationals Women’s Council of Ireland Health-supports-for-men

Training for consideration in your organisation:

Mental Health First Aid Ireland – click here for information on Training dates.