Supporting your colleagues can mean more than commiserating over a long meeting: it can mean helping those who are struggling with their mental health, too. Not only can a helping hand from a coworker encourage people to seek the professional help they need, but supporting those who are struggling can help the team morale as well. “Supporting your colleagues — and especially your direct reports — with their mental health can aid in enabling them to maintain their productivity, preserve cohesiveness on the team, and reduce turnover due to burnout,” says Richard Orbé-Austin, Ph.D., licensed psychologist and executive coach at Dynamic Psychological Consulting .
But how can you help? Here, according to Orbé-Austin, is how to support struggling colleagues:
Provide an opportunity to discuss mental health challenges
Those struggling with their mental health often need a safe space — eg a listening ear — to turn to. “If your colleague is struggling with mental health concerns, whether it is a diagnosable issue such as depression or anxiety, or overall stress or burnout, you can serve as an initial outlet for them to verbalise their struggles without stigma,” suggests Orbé-Austin . Let colleagues know that you are there to listen if they ever need to talk. However, “you should be clear that you are not serving as a pseudo-therapist, but [instead] as a helpful ear,” he says. Simply knowing you’re there to listen can be a big help — especially if they don’t have anywhere else to express themselves.
Recommend healthy coping strategies that you employ
Some mental health struggles are related to people’s inability to deal with work-related stress or burnout. If that’s the case, you can recommend options to cope with mental health challenges , says Orbé-Austin. These might be strategies you employ or enjoy, or more general suggestions, such as yoga, exercise, or time in nature. “By making recommendations, it provides tangible options that your colleague can use to deal with some of his or her challenges,” he says.
Normalise mental wellness
There is, unfortunately, still a lot of stigma around mental health issues such as depression. But if you — and your workplace as a whole —make mental health a normal discussion topic by talking about mental wellness openly, honestly, and kindly, then you can reduce the stigma around it, says Orbé-Austin. “And you may facilitate your colleague seeking professional help,” he says.
Share available resources
If your company has mental health resources, encourage your struggling colleagues to explore them. If your company doesn’t offer them, share any other resources you may think could help, whether online resources or national helplines. “By identifying resources, you can make the process of securing aid easier, especially for someone who may feel overwhelmed,” he says.