Help a Colleague Who’s Struggling with Mental Illness

It can be very difficult to know what to do if you have a colleague who may have an undetected, undiagnosed, or untreated mental health issue that’s affecting them and the team around them

If you suspect that your colleague might be struggling with anxiety, depression, or another mental health issue there are a few different ways you could provide support and needed assistance.

  • Speak to them directly: but think about whether you’re the right person to say something. If you’re a peer or a direct report and you don’t consider the person a friend, then it’s probably not your place. If you’re a manager and the person’s behavior is affecting their or others’ work, then you have an obligation to address the issue.
  • Create a safe and non threatening environment where people can talk about these sorts of issues. Focus on the work and how the person’s behavior is affecting the team. Then give the person the opportunity to respond and share what’s going on. Listen in a nonjudgmental way. And get support from others if you need it.
  • We see more companies now providing programmes for “Wellness in the Workplace” where they bring in experts to speak to small groups of staff on Mental Health and good practice tips on how to stay Mentally Well in difficult or challenging situations.
  • The services of an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) can be a really good idea too, and it shifts the pressure from a peer or a manager when its hard to know what to say and provides for professional help and assistance when a person needs someone to reach out to.

There are many life stages that can trigger or challenge our mental wellness from financial difficulties, an illness in the family or of a loved one, difficult or broken relationships with family members or loved ones, demands of a young family, being the unofficial “carer” for an aging family member, moving house, sitting exams, a new promotion or added responsibility in work, a new boss, changes in the company structure and many more. Therefore it is a good idea to provide some support structure in the workplace for staff who may need it, it will help them cope better and remain productive and engaged.