How to Support Someone with Their Mental Health at Work

Mental Health in the workplace is a hot topic – and why not when research shows that one in four of us will experience a mental health problem this year. That means that it is more than likely that you work with someone with a mental health condition right now.

The Mental Health Foundation has recently completed research that suggests that on average we say “I’m fine” when someone asks us how we are fourteen times per week, but actually we only mean it 19% of the time! Knowing our colleagues can be hard when we have an ever-growing list of priorities to work through, but as we spend the majority of our week with them, why not make an effort to get to know who you work with? Social relationships are essential for promoting wellbeing so what can you do to support your workmates? See our handy help sheet to give you some tips


If you want to offer support to a colleague who seems to be struggling, make sure it is not at a time that is very busy or time-limited, or in a place that doesn’t afford any privacy. Your colleague needs to feel comfortable to share their emotions.


Gently ask if they have considered seeking support or if they have someone they can trust to talk to. You could even offer to go to an appointment with them. Seeking help from Employee Assistance Programmes or their GP can offer them specialist support to give them tools to support their feelings.


Asking open-ended questions such as ‘How did that make you feel?’ instead of ‘Did that make you feel low?’ and really giving your work colleague chance to talk is one of the most helpful things you can do. Having someone listen to their concerns can be a positive step in the right direction to seeking help or feeling a little bit more in control. You don’t need to give solutions – just showing understanding and that you care speaks volumes about the support that they have even if they might not have realised it before.


Your colleague might not feel able to open up right away, but letting them know you are there for them and that your door is open (figuratively or literally depending on where you work) shows that you are there to support when they are ready – and that can make such a difference to someone who might feel alone.


Especially to those that might be showing signs of stress and poor mental health, but don’t forget that anyone at any time can be fighting a battle that we can’t see. Taking the time to say hello to people, making a cup of tea for someone or asking how someone’s weekend has been only takes a minute, but it can make a lot of difference to someone who may be struggling.


You may be able to help a colleague by doing a favour or small job for them. This doesn’t mean taking on their workload and adding additional stress to your own: something simple like running a small errand for them or washing up a tea cup are all little things that can make a big difference.


You don’t need to have all the answers. If you feel like someone has the potential to cause harm to themselves or if their emotions and feelings are threatening to overwhelm them, you can seek support from the Samaritans, their GP, a family member or your employer (either line manager or HR).


People with poor mental health can often feel like the world is a critical and disapproving place. They may feel vulnerable and self-conscious about how they are feeling. Listening and being neutral in your opinions and answers can help your colleague to share and explore their feelings in a non-threatening way and without worry. They may not always make the best decisions for themselves, but you can always encourage them to make sure they are looking after themselves such as checking they have taken some time to have a break, grab a drink and off load if they need to without the worry of judgement.


Being there for someone and remembering to ask how an appointment went or how they are doing is a vital part of supporting someone. However, it is important to give them space to work through their emotions, including giving them time away from thinking about them. Talking about other light-hearted topics can be a useful tonic and a way to take their mind off some of their worries.

Resilient People are here to help support your organisation through training and wellbeing services to build positive mental health in the workplace all year round. Our ‘RESPOND’ course has been developed especially for managers to give them confidence and knowledge in supporting their teams. This includes how to spot signs and symptoms, how to have a conversation with a member of their team and how to build resilience for challenge and change.

We have a range of services to support mental health and wellbeing in your organisation. Please get in touch for more information: [email protected] or 01977 210220


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