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Often we are hesitant to reach out to help a friend or co-worker who is struggling for fear of saying the wrong thing, offending the other person, or worrying that you are not qualified to ask about their health.
However, asking someone a simple “Are you okay?” is a great place to start when it comes to supporting individuals who may be facing mental health challenges. Remember, you don’t need to be a therapist to show compassion and empathy to individuals who may be facing struggles or challenges with their mental health.
Workplaces have a responsibility to protect workers’ health and safety, including to protect them from any workplace factor that may impact their mental health. This duty must be balanced with other responsibilities such as fulfilling business and operational requirements. An organization’s key asset is their workers, and ensuring a worker is healthy and able to perform their duties to the best of their ability is usually considered to be the right thing to do. Creating a safe space so the worker can share and discuss their concerns will foster a caring culture of support in which everyone benefits.
If a change in a worker’s behaviour or performance is noticed, there is a duty to inquire. A meeting should be scheduled to discuss any concerns and issues that may be noticed. If there are concerns about performance and completing work, this fact should not be the first focus. Start with what you have observed, such as “I’ve noticed lately…” or “You haven’t been yourself lately, are you okay?”
These conversations may not be successful the first time, but continual follow up and discussion should bring about trust and empathy so the employee feels comfortable in sharing if there is something affecting their mental health. Active listening skills are necessary so the worker feels safe and secure in sharing private details about their mental health.
Some strategies for creating a positive space for protecting mental health include:
Some strategies for workers to protect their mental health include: