According to Beyond Blue, one in five Australian employees report that they have taken time off work over the past 12 months due to feeling mentally unwell.
One Size Doesn’t Fit All
It’s important to understand that when we’re suffering from mental health challenges, we don’t have a defining ‘look’.
- Some will be the highest achievers you’ve ever met
- Some won’t be able to get out of bed
- Some will be extremely extroverted
- Some will be extremely introverted
The signs you need to look for in identifying challenges are most easily seen through unusual changes in behaviour.
- Is ‘Always On-time Andy’ all of a sudden always arriving late?
- Has Zoe gone from animated and conversational to silent and withdrawn?
- Is Zac not delivering to his usual standard of work?
These types of signs may suggest it’s time for you to check-in.
Remember, you see your colleagues every day, which puts you in one of the best positions to notice when things are different.
It can be tricky starting a conversation about how they’re doing, and they may not feel comfortable sharing at first, but it’s important to let them know that you’ve noticed and that you’re there whenever they need someone to talk to.
- Take them out of the workplace – invite them to grab a coffee, go for a walk or get lunch together.
- Ask them, but don’t push them to talk – a simple “how are you?” can go a long way. Tell them you’ve noticed they’ve been acting a little differently.
- Listen to them – It’s not our place to solve other peoples’ problems. Don’t try to. What’s important is that you provide a safe space for them to talk, express and validate their feelings.
- Find out what help is available in your workplace – if you feel out of your depth or they don’t feel comfortable talking to you, inform them of any other support networks or people in your company such as HR.
- Relate to their feelings, but don’t make it all about you. Let them know you understand their feelings and problems, especially if you’ve been in a similar situation.
- Respect their privacy and the confidentiality of your conversations.
After the initial conversation, make sure to check in with your colleague over the next couple of days or weeks. Above all, it’s important to be proactive and offer another out-of-office catch-up as they may not want to initiate it themselves – even if it means scheduling time in their calendar!
It’s vital to remember we aren’t experts. The best thing we can do is be a friend to people who may be struggling to seek professional help. Facilitate help-seeking behaviour whether it be booking their appointment for them or helping them get there: that is the best role for you to play.
If you’d like to know more, please feel free to Our Program Director Jack Jones.