Mental Health

What to do if Your Mental Health is Fine But Your Colleagues Are Struggling

So, you’ve completed the Naluri Mental Health Assessment. Your risk for depression, anxiety, and stress is low. Which is a relief, all things considered (insert your personal flashback of 2020 and 2021 here). You may not have been on point all throughout the pandemic, but there’s nothing to feel too badly about. You’re doing all right. Life is going on and you’re back in the office with zero complaints about the way your company has implemented COVID precautions. It feels good to be back.

But, things aren’t quite as they used to be. One colleague looks extra frazzled and unkempt. Your most dependable teammate has been forgetting things, making rookie mistakes and misunderstanding briefs. Another coworker seems more turbocharged than usual, talking animatedly about all sorts of great ideas they can’t wait to share with the team but you accidentally caught them tearing up at their desk the other day. There have been whispers about a certain few who may or may not have joined in the great resignation. And your closest friend in the office has been making excuses to get out of coming in.

Could it be depression, anxiety, or stress? Do you address what’s happening? Should you?

1 in 4 people lives with a mental condition like depression, anxiety, and stress. Pandemic fatigue, economic uncertainty, loss and bereavement, isolation, fear, and constantly living in flight-or-fight mode have resulted in an upsurge of mental health issues.

Here’s a quick guide on how to manoeuvre this.

1. Don’t guilt yourself into feeling bad for being OK

Guilt is a powerful emotion that can lead to unhealthy behaviours. Your mental health is just as important as your coworkers’. Respect yourself enough to prioritise your self-care. On the flip side, you also shouldn’t guilt them into feeling bad for not being OK.

2. Don’t try to label it

The worst you can do is jump to conclusions based on a limited understanding of what may be going on in your colleagues' lives. If your coworker is willing and able to talk about their struggles, try to listen without giving advice. Unless you are a mental health professional, you are not trained to speculate on or diagnose a person’s experiences. 

3. Embrace empathy

Empathy sounds more like, “I’m sorry to see you struggling. I don’t know how to help but I’m willing to lend you an ear,” and less like, “Life is hard, but it could be worse. Try being more grateful, that’s how I do it.” Empathy is acknowledging someone else’s feelings and experiences without imposing your own.

4. Make the person feel safe

Rather than bluntly asking, “Are you depressed?” consider mentioning how you checked in on your own mental health with an online assessment. Otherwise, try something like, “We have to get this project done. How can we best work together so that we’re on the same page?”

5. Draw boundaries if you have to

Being a concerned colleague does not make you an amateur therapist. If someone keeps coming back to you for advice and support, gently remind them that while you’re rooting for them, you’re not an expert.

Besides talking to your colleagues privately, you can also refer them to your company’s employee assistance programme, or ask your HR department for help. The more you talk openly about mental health and its peaks and valleys, the more you build awareness, create a safe space, break the stigma around it, and encourage those in need to consider getting help. It can also boost teamwork and build a stronger, more resilient team.

Support your team better with one of Naluri's employee assistance programmes. Email to find out more.

Written by:
Chloe Pharamond