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How to support a colleague in distress

 The first step in supporting mental health in colleagues is recognition [Courtesy, Freepik]

In the bustling professional world, it's all too easy for the subtleties of mental well-being to slip beneath the surface, masked by deadlines and the hum of daily tasks. Yet, acknowledging and supporting the mental health of colleagues is not just an act of empathy but a strategic move towards fostering a thriving, collaborative work environment.

The first step in supporting mental health in colleagues is recognition. Like quiet currents beneath a vast ocean, signs of mental well-being can often be unobtrusive but demand our attention. Changes in behaviour, fluctuating productivity or a subtle withdrawal from team dynamics can be signals of an internal struggle. Be on the lookout for these.

Instead of donning blinders to these nuances, envision your workplace as a place where each team member plays a unique role. When one falls out of tune, it affects the entire organisation. Therefore, recognising the subtle shifts in your colleagues' demeanour is akin to fine-tuning the collective harmony of the workplace.

Creating a safe space for open dialogue about mental health is a transformative act. Encourage conversations that extend beyond the superficial waters of project updates. Consider initiating a casual coffee chat or a check-in.

Picture these conversations as bridges connecting colleagues on a deeper level. By sharing experiences, challenges and triumphs, a profound sense of camaraderie is woven thus fortifying the workplace against the isolating currents of mental health struggles.

Expressing empathy might involve adapting timelines, sharing workload burdens or even just offering a listening ear. In the workplace ecosystem, empathy becomes the nutrient that allows mental well-being to bloom. Acknowledge that everyone's journey is unique and the pace at which they traverse their challenges may differ.

Once they share what they are going through do not go telling every Tom, Dick and Harry. Unless your colleague allows you to share, keep your mouth shut. Unless they are in danger of self-harm, maybe then, you can reach out to someone he or she trusts and is in a position to help.

You also need to understand that supporting mental health in colleagues is not the responsibility of a solitary champion. It's a collective endeavour that demands a shift in the culture of the workplace. Depending on the severity of their situation, encourage them to talk to someone in the company who is in a senior position and can help. Or, nudge them gently to seek professional help. 


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