So, what should you do if you’re worried about a colleague and how should you approach these conversations?
Approach them in private. Make sure to approach them when they’re on their own, not in the middle of the office or in front of others.
Make the time. Invite them to go and get a cup of tea or coffee, go for a walk, or grab lunch with you. Try and make it outside of the workplace or in any quiet, private setting – this often helps people feel more relaxed and open.
Ask them how they are. Ask them if there is anything that has been on their mind lately or anything that’s been causing them distress. You don’t need to be a therapist to talk to someone – just be friendly, non-judgemental, calm, and empathetic. Reassure them that they did the right thing by talking to you.
Listen. Ask straight forward and open questions and then let them explain their situation in their own words. Don’t make any assumptions about how they’re feeling or what they’re going through.
Acknowledge what they’re going through. Don’t diminish their feelings or judge them. However, focus on what they can change, not what they can’t. Give them hope that things will get better with the right support.
Effectively signpost them. Educate yourself on what support there is available at your company, including where and how it can be accessed.
Don’t pressure or rush them. If they’re not ready to talk yet, make sure they know that the door is always open and you’re always there if they need to talk about anything.
Encourage them to talk. Try to encourage them to talk to their manager or someone from the Employee Assistance Programme (Or equivalent employee mental health service) if you’re concerned.
Keep it confidential. Don’t share anything that they have told you. However, if they are displaying warning signs of severe mental health problems, i.e., if you think they are at risk of suicide, seek the support of your manager or HR.
Be approachable to your employees. If you’re a manager, regularly check in with your employees and ask them how they are doing, beyond just small talk. Encourage open conversations around mental health and don’t be afraid to address any concerns if you think one of your employees is struggling. Reassure them that you are there to help and you can work through any problems together.