I want to be there for...

Almost one in three of us has experienced a mental health problem while in employment. That might be more common than you thought. Still, if you’re managing someone with a mental health problem and you’re not sure how to respond.

Tips:

  • You don’t have to be an expert to be in your colleague’s corner; listening and not judging are some of the most significant things you can do.
  • Take their lead: show an interest in their condition and how it affects them, but be aware that it can be hard to have conversations about your mental health at work, so be patient.
  • In the longer term, having regular catch-ups and supervisions can help both parties recognise stress or other signs to watch out for. You may also need to consider any adjustments you need to make to support them.

Read Mind’s guide to managing someone with a mental health problem

“I kept my anxiety and depression concealed from my employer for as long as I possibly could, because I was worried people would treat me differently or it would affect my chance of progression. It was only when I got to breaking point that I finally had a conversation with my manager - Ruth. Luckily for me, she has been incredible in supporting me over the last 18 months and this has been a significant factor in my recovery.”

It might feel awkward to ask a colleague about time off work. You might be worried it will be embarrassing for them, or that you’re pushing them into revealing something personal, but it’s likely your colleague will be grateful that it’s acknowledged, as pretending nothing has happened might make them feel more isolated.

Tips:

  • Just asking how they are can really help.
  • Be aware that they might not want to talk about it - it can be hard to open up about mental health at work, so make sure to respect that.
  • As an alternative, small, kind gestures - like making a cup of tea - can help them feel like part of the team again.
“Returning to work after two months off was very hard. I was really worried about what colleagues would think of me, and what they would say, and whether I would relapse. I didn’t. I found lots of people who cared how I was, tried to help, and several who confessed their own mental health stories.”

It’s good that you noticed this! We all respond to pressure in different ways, and some of us express this more outwardly. But if your colleague seems more stressed than usual, and it’s been going on a while, it could be a sign of a mental health problem.

Tips:

  • Whatever the case, just asking how they’re doing can go a long way.
  • Try to take their lead: they might not want to talk about it, and that’s okay - it can be really tricky to start talking about your mental health at work.
  • If you have a good relationship and it feels appropriate, you might investigate what changes they (or your employer) could make to manage their stress.
  • When asking someone how they’re doing, you might want to do this away from other people
“And when he saw me struggling at work, he was there for me. When it came to the crunch, when I needed someone to have my back about something that was making my anxiety worse – Tom stepped up.” – Lucy