Read these handy tips on how to approach someone who may be having a hard time and offer them support.
Relationship building is very important when it comes to mental health in the workplace. You will need to feel comfortable to approach a colleague that you may be concerned about. Also in order to pick up that someone is behaving out of character you will need to know how they usually behave.
It may be difficult to do, feeling a little anxious about approaching a colleague to ask them if they are OK is normal, it is necessary that we do it none the less. Think about whether you are the right person to approach your colleague, and if for any reason you think you may not be the best person, employ the appropriate person to approach your colleague you are concerned about. Make sure this is done with discretion and confidentially.
Be clear that you are concerned about the person and give specific examples of the observed behaviour change that sparked your concern. For example: “you are usually the first one at Friday drinks after work and the life and soul of the party; however, I’ve noticed you have not been coming for the past few weeks.” OR “you are usually the first one at work and never take a sick day, however, I have noticed that over the past few weeks you have been arriving at work late and have had a few sick days.”
Ask the question clearly and directly.
Listen to what the person is saying and also listen for how they are feeling. Do not interrupt, just listen and at the end summarise what you have heard to check that your understanding is correct.
It is not your responsibility to “fix” the problem or “save” your colleague – giving solutions can make the situation much worse.
You are not a counsellor or psychologist and should not try to be that for the person.
Point the person in the right direction for support services, for example, you could let them know that ACU offers a free and confidential counselling service for staff through the Employee Assistance Program.
Allow the person the opportunity to explain what would be helpful for them. For some it will be joining them for a walk, for others it might be a ride to work.
Don’t just leave it there, it is very important to check in with the person regularly to see if they are OK.
For further information and resources visit the RU OK? website or view A Practical Guide for the Workplace - How to Ask Staff RU OK? (PDF, 6.2MB)