Conversations can serve as the first step in de-escalating a mental health crisis in the workplace

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -  No matter the job, work is stressful sometimes. You might not realize it but you likely have co-workers who are dealing with mental stress on top of the demands of a job. Between 20 and 25 percent of Americans deal with some sort of mental health illness, but we can all easily prepare ourselves to help.

As a sheriff's deputy and crisis intervention training coordinator in Madison County, Lt. Donny Shaw realizes the importance of mental health first aid in the workplace. "It's a tough job and there are things that we see that people wouldn't believe," Lt. Shaw said.

"You respond to some instances that has an effect on you that will last, and it can cause stress," Lt. Shaw explained. "It can cause mental anguish, and these things that we've learned in the mental health wellness can help us identify our coworkers or ourselves."

Instructors at Wellstone Behavioral Health in Huntsville report around one in five Americans suffer with mental illness. If you suspect your co-worker is among this group, extend an ear.

"Approach that person with concern," Rita Limbaugh, Mental Health First Aid Instructor, said.

Limbaugh encourages everyone to take action and help their co-workers.

"They may just be waiting for that one person to notice that something's not right because they're not comfortable coming forward and saying I've got problems," Limbaugh said.

Lt. Shaw pays close attention to his team's stress levels to protect them and everyone in the work place.

"So that we don't have the loss of an employee due to the stress, or tragically happens in some places, a suicide," Lt. Shaw explained.

Experts encourage you to help by knowing your co-workers and paying attention to the signs.

"If you hear someone say something, 'As soon as I get out of here I'm going to this and that,' you go tell someone," Limbaugh said.

Limbaugh said Wellstone Behavioral Health offers Mental Health First Aid classes to the community. You can get more information by calling her at (256) 705-6379 or visiting www.wellstone.com.