Although conversations surrounding mental health at work have increased over the years, mental health stigma still remains an issue. If you discover a co-worker is struggling, here’s how you can help them:
Many factors can take a toll on someone’s mental health like excessive workloads, long working hours and poor working relationships. There could also be issues a co-worker is dealing with outside of work that you are unaware of. It’s important to not make any assumptions about how they are feeling, any symptoms or how they might affect their ability to work.
Respect their boundaries
Rather than asking questions that encourage a colleague to tell you everything, let them know you are available if they want to talk and that you care about their welfare, this focuses on the person rather than the problem. A co-worker is far more likely to talk to you if they feel relaxed and that you respect their boundaries.
Lighten their workload
Work stress is fairly common but regular exposure to stressful situations can impact a co-worker’s mental health. If you notice someone is struggling with a pileup of paperwork and looming deadlines, offer to help them! Of course, you should access your own workload but if you can, lightening the workload for someone else can make a big difference.
It sounds obvious but more often than not, when someone is struggling to express themselves it’s tempting to try and fill in the blanks to help solve their issue. Remember their experiences are unique and your role is to listen rather than give advice, unless the experience is relevant to your own.
Keep it confidential
Discussions around mental health are sensitive and should be confidential. It’s important to create an open and safe space where your co-workers feel they can speak freely. Don’t divulge any details with your other co-workers but do encourage the person in question to talk with HR or their manager.
A co-worker confiding in you is perfectly normal, but if you find they are becoming dependant on you for advice, this could impact your own mental health. At this stage, it’s important to steer a co-worker towards professional help if they need it and reiterate to them that you’re not an expert but will support them.
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