Our mental health is a complex and sensitive topic. Which is exactly why so many people struggle to talk about it in a workplace setting.
One easy way to end the stigma is to be supportive of our colleagues who are struggling. Here are some mental health first aid tips that you should bring to your workplace.
Don’t ignore it
If you see a colleague crying in the bathroom or getting upset after a meeting, don’t ignore them. Instead, think about how you would like to be treated.
Ask them if they’re okay. Offer to get them a glass of water or take them outside for a quick walk around the block. Yes, they might reject your help but it’s important that you ask.
One of the most helpful things you can do if your colleague is upset is to listen without judgement or bias. Do not offer advice or make the conversation about you, simply be there as a shoulder to cry on. This will help them to open up and realise that their issues are nothing to be ashamed of.
Never make assumptions
Don’t automatically assume that someone is struggling with their mental health. If someone overreacts to a new deadline or snarky email, they might just be having a bad day, and that’s ok.
Expressing emotions doesn’t mean someone is in crisis. It’s important to understand that our mental health is on a spectrum.
Respect their privacy
If your colleague chooses to confide in you, you need to respect their privacy at all times. Do not gossip, make jokes or even talk about their mental health with your other coworkers.
It’s important to create an open and supportive working environment where people feel able to talk about their mindset without fear of repercussions.
Mental health problems can affect work performance. People with depression/anxiety etc. may struggle to concentrate, get tired more easily, make more mistakes, struggle to make decisions and excessively worry about their performance.
As their coworker, you need to be mindful of this. Make exceptions, be empathetic and ask them if there’s anything that you can do to help them balance their workload.
Steer them towards help
There are lots of great resources out there. If you feel like your colleague is going through a hard time gently suggest that they talk to their GP or seek help from a trusted organisation like Samaritans. You don’t need to have all the answers, you simply need to point them in the direction of the people who can help.