How to support a colleague – mental health in the workplace

How to support a colleague – mental health in the workplace

Last time I wrote about team dynamics in the workplace and how they can affect your mental health. A really important part of that, is how to help someone else when you see they are in need. If that person is part of your team, or a colleague you see suffering, what can you do?

Showing someone else you care is probably the first step towards making them feel better. Remembering the times I was in most difficulty, just the simple fact of someone telling me to enjoy a break, or ask for help, already relieved the pressure a little.  So by the sheer fact of noticing, you might already be making a difference.

Here are some of the ways I like, and think can show support.

  1. Offer your help. Maybe you’ve noticed the person is seriously overworked, staying late every night. Or maybe they look panicked all the time. If you have time to spare, or even the headspace to take on something else, offer your help. Ask them if there’s a task you can take on, or if there’s anything you can do. Let them know you’re available if they need assistance, and if you’re working on a project together try to pick up small things to make their life easier.
  2. Share resources. Since I’m a bit of a geek I read A LOT, so I have quite a few resources available to share. From websites, articles, podcasts, or top people to follow… I love sharing my favourite go-to resources with people. I see this as a way for others to find information if that’s what they’re seeking, so they can better understand what they’re going through. Or tools, to help them cope with the situation at hand. Or perhaps even inspiration – stories of people’s experiences that make you want to take action or give you the ability to take a step back. If you’re not ready to talk to others about what you’re going through, resources can be a great way to figure out you’re not alone, how other people have done it, and what you can try to feel better.
  3. Share your experience. If you have an experience of your own dealing with hardship, stress, anxiety, bereavement or any other form of mental health issue and you feel brave enough to talk about it, then do! More than anything I believe it’s important for others to stop feeling alone, weird, paranoid or anything else. By sharing our experiences we give others the opportunity to feel ok to share in turn and make it less stigmatised. We become relatable and develop empathy. And by sharing how we dealt with certain situations, we may give others ideas on what they could do.
  4. Buy them a coffee. Sometimes people are having a really bad day and they just need to get out. Out of the office, outdoors, take a breath of fresh air and relax (or try to), or maybe even cry. If you spot someone in that situation, you may want to offer to step outside with them as a shoulder to cry on or to encourage them to get out for a second for a change of scenery. Or you may suggest grabbing a drink after work, encouraging them to take time to wind down, relax, enjoy the end of the day and chat about stuff other than work. Going out after work is a way to remember life exists outside of work and things to look forward to at the end of the day.
  5. Listen. Sometimes people just need to get stuff off their chest, about what a shit situation they’re in. And sometimes the best thing you can do is listen and let them get it out of their system.

What about you, how do you help a colleague in need?

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Currently working in marketing and comms in Amsterdam. Passionate about all things digital, writing, dancing, travelling and much more. Mental health blogger and advocate.

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