How to support your colleagues at work
Mental health at work is so important that we can’t just leave it to managers and leaders. We all have a role to play in supporting our colleagues and coworkers. Management can create policies and offer incentives, but you can offer your attention, patience, and care.
Let’s look at how you can be a powerful ally for anyone struggling with their mental health in your workplace.
How to support your colleagues at work
Know the signs
The first step when trying to support your colleagues through difficult times is to know when they’re experiencing them. Understanding the signs that someone around you is struggling is an important skill.
So, what are the main signs that someone might be having difficulty with their mental health, and which of them are you likely to be able to spot at work?
We’re really looking for anything that seems particularly out of character. This might mean that they’re suddenly disorganised, anxious, or withdrawn. They could be more tired than usual or have difficulty keeping up with their workload despite usually finding it manageable.
Sometimes, someone who is having a hard time emotionally can also react by throwing themselves into their work and even appearing manic.
Encourage and offer conversation
Just because you see some of the signs of mental health issues in your colleagues doesn’t mean you can be sure about what’s going on. The best way to support your coworkers is to talk to them about what’s happening without preconceptions.
There can be a delicate balance between offering support to your colleagues and not prying into personal information. Ask open-ended questions and allow them to open up if they feel comfortable enough.
Remember that opening up about mental health can feel incredibly vulnerable. If your colleague is talking about their mental health at work, they need you to give them your full attention. Paraphrasing what they’ve said to you can be a helpful way to show them that you understand.
Offer support and resources
Sometimes, all you need to do to support your coworkers’ mental health at work is to let them know you’re there and you care. In other situations, it’s important to be able to point them in the right direction to find someone qualified to give them the help they need.
Supporting someone struggling with their mental health at work can also be difficult for you. Knowing what resources are available to direct a colleague to can also reduce your emotional burden.
Try to create a list of possible sources of support near you. This could include ways your workplace can help, local charities, and even national support services.
Supporting your male colleagues
Given that we’re in the middle of Men’s Health Week, this is a good time to talk about the specific challenges your male colleagues might face regarding their mental health and wellbeing.
Men typically feel more stigma when talking about their mental health difficulties. They don’t open up to close friends the way women often do, and they often believe that others will think less of them if they reveal that they’ve been struggling with their mental health.
This is exacerbated in certain industries and workplace cultures prioritising macho behaviour and a win-at-all-costs mindset.
Luckily, there are ways to make it easier for men to talk about their mental health at work.
One of the most powerful tools to help men talk about their mental health is seeing other men doing the same thing, especially members of senior management. The more men talk about their own experiences, the easier it is for others to follow your example.
Staff can also create sports teams or groups to help form closer links between coworkers. Men are more likely to feel able to talk to people they already know well and trust.
Keep learning how to support your colleagues' mental health at work
These tips are an essential start for supporting your colleagues and promoting good mental health at work. But there’s still much more to cover.
Take your workplace support to the next level with Paws in Work's mental health training courses. Our mental health first aid courses can give you the confidence and skills you need to take care of the people around you.
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