Supporting Colleagues with Their Mental Health

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The work environment can be a stressful place and it may be especially challenging for those struggling with their mental health. Although mental health conditions are common, with one in five adults in the U.S. experiencing mental illness, stigma in the workplace has made healthy conversations about mental wellness difficult. Supporting colleagues with their mental health can not only help them access the support they need but may also help your team maintain productivity, boost cohesiveness and reduce turnover due to burnout. Here’s how you can help.

1. Don’t Wait to Address the Issue

Those struggling with their mental health often need an opportunity, like a listening ear, to discuss their concerns. If you recognize mental health related symptoms in a colleague, let them know that you are there to listen if they ever need to talk. Although approaching a colleague can be difficult, it’s important not to wait. Simply knowing that you are there to listen can be a big help, especially when workplace stigma can limit how free they feel to express their concerns.

2. Be Mindful of Your Approach

It is important to be clear that you are not serving as a therapist, but instead as a helpful ear. When supporting colleagues with their mental health, it’s best to avoid directly questioning a co-worker about their mental health condition, or even suggesting that they may have one. Be conscious of how you approach the conversation. You can always ask how they are feeling. Remember to be respectful and compassionate.

3. Talk & Listen Carefully

A great way to help identify mental health issues and help colleagues cope with stress is by simply talking to them. By briefly checking in, you show that you care, and your concern can act as a reminder that they are not alone. Start slowly and let them lead the conversation. If they feel comfortable enough to open up, listen carefully and without judgement. It is important to help them see their value and importance to you and the company.

4. Show Little Acts of Kindness and Compassion

Little acts of kindness can make a world of difference. Supporting colleagues with their mental health can be as simple as saying hello, offering a snack or to bring coffee, or even sending an encouraging email. These little gestures can turn a colleague’s whole day around. You can also show compassion by sharing how you personally cope with stress or mental health challenges. Consider recommending strategies you employ, like therapy, yoga, exercise or time outdoors.

5. Understand You Can’t Heal, But You Can Normalize

While you can try your best to help, it’s important to know that your colleague may need professional services. Don’t get discouraged if your support isn’t enough. By simply being there for them, you can help combat a lot of the stigma around mental health issues in the workplace. Talking openly, honestly and kindly about mental health can help make it a normal discussion topic and may even help facilitate your colleague seeking professional help.

6. Share Resources and Encouragement

If your company has mental health resources like an Employee Assistance Program, encourage your colleague to explore them. One of the most beneficial things you can do is help colleagues access the care they need. If your company doesn’t offer mental health services, you can suggest other resources you think could help, whether they are online, in the community, or even national helplines. Remember to be respectful of their privacy, keep your conversations confidential and ultimately leave it up to them to decide.  

At Clear Behavioral Health we are committed to helping those struggling with mental health and addiction. To learn more about our treatment programs and services, visit our website or contact our expert clinical team today.

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