An Employer Responds to Mental Health Challenge

“Firsts” are always frightening for me and in some cases, surprising! In over 20 years of staffing my crew, I’ve encountered many situations with individuals who had debilitating behaviors due to unresolved trauma and chemical imbalances but I have never encountered anything like this before and I had no tool in my tool kit to deal with this situation. 

As it became clear that one of my employees was facing a serious mental health challenge, I wondered “Where does a business go for help?” I didn’t want to set this person adrift by firing them—further isolating them. At the same time, I knew I had to do something because this person’s deteriorating mental health was creating daily discord at work and causing an inability to perform the work. 

I remembered CONNECT Summit County whose work I discovered via the Live PC Give PC initiative. I called Peer Navigation Services. 

Oh my, what relief!

The Peer Navigator listened as I described the journey I was on with my staff member that summer. She listened intently to my desire for a beneficial outcome for all. She decoded the conditions I described and offered options for a response. She explained how to navigate the delicacy of interactions with someone suffering from a condition known as “anosognosia” – someone who didn’t recognize their symptoms or their need for help.

I shared this information with the rest of the crew. Keeping this person within the company would require training for our whole staff so that we would all be working together for the benefit of their troubled coworker and maintaining safety at the same time. 

We voted. Although most of my employees wanted to receive the needed training there were concerns about their physical safety due to their troubled co-worker’s behavior. There was one person who was recovering from trauma, who felt vulnerable and needed support and to feel safe psychologically and physically. I wanted to provide support and safety for all our employees. I made the hard decision to let the troubled employee go, but I also did not want to abandon him. I also wanted to support his recovery.

The Peer Navigator continued to check in with me as the situation unfolded. She gave me options on how to let this person go while also offering support and resources to them. She gave me encouragement and coaching that I needed to implement new skills I was learning. She coached me the whole way and through her guidance, we were able to emerge from this situation without doing further harm to our troubled crewmember while also effectively supporting the wellbeing of the other employee who needed some extra support as well. 

Oh, it was so hard—and scary, but you know, each of my crew members now have this information in their toolkit to handle similar situations. In this way, the benefits of CONNECT Summit County’s work ripples out.


Dee Downing


Red Ant Works, Inc. 


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