Helping a colleague with mental health
How to help a colleague if they are struggling with their mental health
Talking to anyone, let alone a colleague, about mental health difficulties can be hard. But it's also a brave and positive thing to do.
First off, it is important to try not to make assumptions about someone’s mental health. They could be having a bad day, getting over an argument with a loved one, or have just been on the receiving end of an unexpected expense. So many events can alter a person's mood. However, common signs of someone struggling with their mental health include:
- Changes in their behaviour or mood or how they interact with colleagues
- Changes in their work output, motivation levels and focus
- Struggling to make decisions, get organised and find solutions to problems
- Appearing tired, anxious or withdrawn and losing interest in activities and tasks they previously enjoyed
- Changes in eating habits, appetite and increased smoking and drinking
Start by asking ‘are you okay?’ and offering help without judgment.
Deborah Miscoll, Psy.D., a psychologist and Managing Director at Deloitte advises that: If you saw someone trip down the stairs, you’d go to them on the landing and ask, “Are you alright? Do you need any help?” Let the same instinct kick in if you walk into the bathroom and find someone in tears. Don’t tiptoe around. Engage with that person: “Is there anything I can do for you?” They might just need a glass of water and a box of tissues. Or they might need more support. Be empathetic, listen, and if you are able to, offer help without judgement.
Choose the right place to have a conversation.
Make sure you talk in a place that is quiet and where the person can talk to you on equal terms. It could be that you find someplace neutral outside of the workplace or that you simply go for a walk and a chat.
Share your own experiences if you have any.
Letting someone know that they are not alone in what they are feeling or struggling with can provide a great deal of comfort. Feel free to share your struggle as a way to offer comfort, but only if it is genuine. Sharing experiences is an incredibly effective way to get conversations started about mental health in the workplace, and the more people talk about mental health, the more the stigma is overcome.
Have boundaries and encourage seeking professional help.
Supporting someone with mental health issues can be difficult and challenging, so it’s important to remember what your role is and what it’s not. Firstly know your own limits, respect and maintain privacy and direct your colleague to more appropriate sources of help such as a website like mind.org.uk, mentalhealth.org.uk or rethink.org
It may be that you suggest your colleague could speak to someone within your own HR team who will be able to give them additional advice, or if appropriate talk to a union representative if there are workplace issues that need to be resolved.
It’s a positive step to learn more about mental health.
Everyone’s mental health fluctuates, most of the time feelings of depression or anxiety can pass, but sometimes they don’t. So, it’s important everyone learns more about mental health, and how best to look after yourself and others. Here are some links to help you find out more
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