Mindful Conversations: What to Do When You’re Concerned About Your Coworker’s Mental Health

Over one in four people in the world have suffered from a mental or neurological disorder in their lifetime, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Disorders like depression and anxiety cost the global economy 1 trillion dollars a year in lost productivity. While work can be useful for a person’s mental health, a toxic work environment can make them at risk of issues related to mental health, the organization added. It’s difficult to see a coworker crumble from the pressure of work or seeing them struggle with work because of personal problems.

Here are steps you can take if you want to help your colleague out with their mental health.

Know Your Place

If the coworker you’re concerned about is a close friend, it’s perfectly fine to ask them if they want to talk about what could be bothering them. It’s completely different, however, when that person is your boss or someone in the office you rarely interact with. Even if you mean well, your advice or offers for help won’t always be welcome. Know your boundaries and stick to them.

Offer to Lend an Ear

One of the best things you can do to help your colleague’s mental health is just listening to what they have to say. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) says that excellent communication needs active listening and empathy. Active listening means giving your best to interpret and understand what a person is saying to you without any judgment. Take everything into consideration, from stories about their childhood in their hometown of Utah to the denial of their disability claim.

The CCOHS states that you should be free of any distractions like smartphones and your computer when talking with your coworker. Focus on what they’re telling you, maintain eye contact, and don’t interrupt. Reply only when they’re done talking — or don’t. Sometimes people just need someone to vent to, so don’t feel useless if all you did was listen.

Give Mindful Replies

Regularly talk to your friend who is suffering from melntal disorder

If your colleague is asking for help or advice about their mental health, think carefully about what you’re going to say before you say your piece. Remember that you’re not a professional so don’t downplay their emotions or jump to conclusions. Start your sentences with “I’m not an expert, but…” or just a simple “I think…” to make your replies sound sincere while acknowledging the fact that it’s just your opinion. This also makes you sound less preachy. Apart from this, you should also recommend seeing a psychiatrist or even your company’s human resources department if they want a professional assessment of their mental health.

Give Them Space

As much as you want to help your colleague, they may not appreciate incessant questions about how they feel every single day. So if they open up to you and you’ve given advice, let them know that you’re there if they need you. Give them all the space they need to process their thoughts and emotions.

Everyone can be affected by mental illness, and it’s a prevalent problem for workers around the world. Go through these steps if you think your colleague is having a hard time with their mental health. A little help can go a long way.

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