10th October is World Mental Health Day. A day to raise awareness and talk about the impact day-to-day life has on our mental health.
For many of us, work is a significant part of our lives. We spend the majority of our waking hours, five days a week, consumed by our jobs, in the office, with colleagues. Hence, a fulfilling career and a positive, supportive work environment are essential for mental health and well-being.
While keeping an eye out for our own mental well-being - it’s also essential to look out for others. So, without further ado, let’s look at how you can support the mental well-being of your colleagues.
Signs and symptoms to look out for
It’s not always easy to tell if your colleague is struggling with their mental health because often there are no obvious signs. A lot of the time, people prefer not to talk about their state of mind and will plaster on a smile and have a bounce in their step to give everyone around them the illusion that all is okay.
So, without any sure signs, you may ask – how do I go about supporting my colleagues?
No matter how hard one tries to hide their mental health issues, a few red flags always appear.
Some of the symptoms to look out for, include:
Slacking off at work.
Showing up late regularly.
Taking a lot of days off.
Extreme mood changes (highs and lows).
Increase in health issues (headaches, stomach pains, and other bodily aches and pains).
What you can do as a coworker to provide help and support
Discussions around mental health are never easy, and often, one does not know how to approach such sensitive situations. You may feel you might be crossing boundaries or think to yourself – what difference am I going to make by asking? All of which are valid thought processes. But at the same time, your one small step can make a significant difference and help them take their first step towards better mental health.
To help guide you in your approach, here are a few recommendations.
1. Start the conversation.
Mental health is an extremely sensitive topic. So, how you approach the conversation is crucial. Instead of coming right out with it and being direct, take a slow, steady approach. Start by asking your coworkers how they are and let the conversation naturally flow towards a point at which they open up to you. If they don’t, then don’t force it. Here’s a helpful guide - on how to start the conversation.
2. Be respectful and understanding.
Respect and understanding begin when you listen. Think twice before you speak. As well-intended as your intentions may be, you must carefully choose your words and be wary of your tone when speaking words of support.
3. Encourage and provide resources to help them seek the support they need.
Your colleague has opened up to you – that’s great! But unfortunately, that’s not enough. The next step is to help them seek professional support. Most organisations offer internal mental health support programs. Alternatively, your colleague may feel more comfortable seeking external help. In this case, we’ve provided a few resources below.
Mental health support resources
Talking to someone about mental health struggles is not everyone’s cup of tea. Not everyone will open up - legally, they don’t have to. The best one can do is steer the person in the right direction, and should they wish to talk to someone in confidence, the following services are available.
Remember, a conversation can make a world of difference.