Dr. Dawn Brown is a Child/Adult Psychiatrist and Serial Entrepreneur. She’s the CEO/Owner of ADHD Wellness Center & Mental Healthletics.

A positive state of mental health is something that every individual must work to achieve. For some, dealing with their mental health might be particularly difficult. They may have depression, anxiety or another mental health challenge that doesn’t come with a simple solution. Someone who is struggling to manage a serious mental health problem might even be among those you work with every day.

Concern should be shown for workplace mental health. Mental health affect someone’s personal life, but an employee’s mental well-being can also affect their professional life and colleagues. It’s hard to get good work done when your mental health is faltering. It can also be difficult to keep your own mood up when working closely with someone who is being brought down by a difficult mental health situation.

It’s difficult to know what you can do for a co-worker who is struggling with their mental health, but if you notice that this might be true, it is important that you step up. Even if you can’t solve their struggles, your support can go a long way.

Noticing The Signs Of Poor Mental Health In The Workplace

You might not always easily know if one of your co-workers is struggling with their mental health. Much of the time, there aren’t any obvious signs.

A stigma still surrounds mental health problems, so your colleague may not want you to know what they’re struggling with. As a result, they may hide symptoms as best as possible, put on a convincing smile and continue as if there’s nothing wrong.

No matter how hard one works to cover up mental health issues, their effects on life can often not be avoided. In the workplace, this can be noticed as slacking off, showing up late or missing whole days and problematic interpersonal behaviors.

What You Can Do As A Co-Worker

It isn’t always easy to know how to approach a situation like this with one of your co-workers. You may wonder if there is even anything that you can do.

The truth is, your support can do a lot — at least as a first step in their path to better mental health. If you approach being a supportive co-worker in the right way, you can achieve some good.

As a child and adult psychiatrist who specializes in ADHD and mental health, I have a few recommendations:

Allow for the conversation.

The first step is really just to talk with the person. Have a conversation with them to allow them to tell you what’s going on. 

This conversation is crucial, and the way that you approach it couldn’t be more important. Start slow and let them lead into the topic at hand. As mental health can be a very sensitive matter, you don’t just want to come right out and put a label on your co-worker. Instead, ask them how they’re doing. Let them tell you what’s going on. If your colleague feels comfortable and wants to open up about their mental health, they will. 

Otherwise, it’s not up to you to force it. 

Treat them with respect and understanding.

Due to the stigma often held around mental health, a co-worker might have trouble feeling comfortable discussing their mental health. They might not find it easy to accept your support. However, if the co-worker knows that you will respect them, this could make it easier for them to open up. 

Of course, respect and understanding should be the foundation for any attempts to support a troubled co-worker. Yet the importance of this must be stressed, as even the most well-intending person can come off as insensitive if not careful.

You need to be wary of the more subtle acts that can come across as disrespectful. Watch your language, as you don’t know how it might make a co-worker feel to hear you casually use certain words. Also, you’ll want to be careful not to make any assumptions. Everyone’s mental health situation is different, and none is to be judged.

Encourage seeking the support they need.

Unfortunately, your support alone might not be enough for someone facing a mental health issue. It may be possible, though, that you push them in the direction of the help they do need.

Great companies support their employees with benefits and programs, but if they don’t know about it, an employee can’t get anything out of these. You can’t force a co-worker to get the workplace support they need, but you can encourage them to start the discussion with management. 

It might also be necessary that your co-worker seeks support outside of the workplace. If they are comfortable with your giving them advice, and they don’t seem to have the help they need regarding their specific situation, you might consider encouraging them to talk to a professional who is better equipped to help them.

Continue to do your part.

Your support of mental health in the workplace should not end with one co-worker. By being supportive of positive mental health, you make your place of work better for everyone there. Continue to do your part for workplaces to become more mental-health friendly.


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