As a director, sometimes your titleholders might proactively bring up their mental health issues with you, but in some cases, they will not. If someone is experiencing performance or attendance issues that you suspect might be due to mental health issues, initiate the dialogue yourself.
Tact is paramount. Try opening with, “You don’t seem yourself today, is everything okay?” From there, be sure to ask open-ended questions (such as, “Is there anything we can help with?”) and reserve your judgment. You’ll also want to inform the titleholder of the types of support that are available to enable her to perform the essential functions of her job.
Another great way to give titleholders more support is to pair them up with an advocate or mentor, preferably another manager to whom they don’t report directly. This mentor should be someone she can trust and turn to for guidance. Having someone at the manager level will be able to frame things in a professional capacity, and help be a coach on how to communicate and process issues — rather than helping with personal problems like a therapist would. It’s great to have the mentor and mentee set up regular check ins, say once a week.
While many mental health issues stem from someone's personal life, it may be the case that stress from her titleholder role is a contributing factor. If so, this is an area where you as a director can certainly help. There may be things about your organization’s culture or the titleholder's workload that could be worked on to alleviate some stress. Try asking:
What part do they find most stressful?
What tasks are most stressful?
How do they feel about receiving negative feedback?
Do the expectations of the job make them feel pressure rather than positive motivation?
Maybe they don’t feel confident in their job — help re-train them. Focus on tasks the titleholder is most confident in to boost more positive feelings.
Discussing and dealing with mental health issues can be difficult, but if you are committed to caring for your titleholders, it’s an effort well worth undertaking.
*This post has been modified slightly from the original article to apply to directors working with pageant titleholders