How Do I Know If My Colleague Is Not Okay?

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The topic of mental health is really popular these days. Fortunately, it’s also getting its place in the field of employee care. Even so, there are still a lot of misconceptions of how we perceive mental health. Probably the best known is that if we aren’t mentally healthy, we are insane. For a long time, there was an opinion (unfortunately it is still deeply rooted in many companies) that personal things aren’t appropriate at workplace and shouldn’t affect our performance. However, we spend a really large part of our lives at work (up to 4,800,000 minutes). Whether we like it or not, we always bring some of our personal belongings to work. If the employer doesn’t create work environment where we feel comfortable, both our mental health and performance will suffer. 

To understand how others feel and how to help them, at first, we have to understand ourselves.

How do I know that I am mentally not okay?

  • I dont feel good for a long time 
  • Im often tired
  • Ive got a headache
  • I cant sleep peacefully
  • I feel noticeable tension
  • My appetite has changed, Ive got digestive problems, etc. 

And how to recognize our colleagues mental discomfort? In a similar way to self- signals perception.  

Our colleagues can indicate similar symptoms, for example:

  • Anxiety
  • Inability to relax
  • Mood swings
  • Lack of motivation
  • Lost sense of humour
  • Oversensitivity
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Indecisiveness

We can also notice other behavioural changes. Generally, these could be:

  • Frequent smoking
  • Resigned attitude
  • Irritation
  • Anger or aggression
  • Antisocial behaviour
  • Working late hours
  • Inconsistent performance etc.

If you have noticed mental health issues accompanied by these symptoms, you must be wondering when its appropriate to start talking about it with your colleague and give him a helping hand. You might be disappointed because there is no correct answer to the question. It is too individual and it depends on several factors. You have to take into account how close your colleague and you are or whats your role in the company in relation to your colleague. However, you can never go wrong with a well- chosen question or showing interest sincerely. 

What questions are appropriate?

  • How are you doing?
  • You seem to be sad. Is everything alright?

On the contrary, avoid the following questions: 

  • You dont look well. Are you okay?
  • Your performance is really unacceptable. Whats going on?

! Always give a helping hand to your colleague and dont show condemn or contempt.! A healthy relationship with a colleague in safe environment is based on trust and respect, not on curiosity coming from our ego.  

How can an employer support mental health in a company?

The employer should try to create psychologically safe place and atmosphere in which employees can work peacefully. The company can offer programmes to support and protect mental health of the employees. In the long term, the company should strive to increase awareness of the importance of mental health. Its extremely important to pay attention to the support, development and education of managers. Then, they can transfer their knowledge and skills to other team members. We must remember to ask employees what mental health means to them and what prevents them from feeling good at work. Moreover, the willingness of the company management to interact to HR, who are usually in charge of this field, is crucial too.