You will likely experience a mental health challenge at some point in your life. Recognizing this possibility should motivate you to be a workplace ally for mental health, to treat your colleagues dealing with mental health issues with the empathy you would want under similar circumstances.
Yet the stigma and lack of information about mental health block the way in many workplaces. The myth that people with mental health conditions cannot make meaningful contributions leads to conscious and unconscious bias. We must work together to eradicate the stigma and its devastating impacts. We may struggle with mental health, but we can recover. We can thrive at home and work, and we can help make this possible for each other by being allies, collaborating to create a supportive workplace for all.
To be a mental health ally at work is to help those struggling with mental health issues feel valued and needed. This can have positive long-term benefits, including increased employee engagement, productivity, and loyalty. Strengthening and deepening relationships between colleagues can also benefit the broader employee community. When we’re supported, we’re also often eager to support others, creating a virtuous self-reinforcing cycle.
Some of the most effective ways you can be a mental health ally are to talk one on one with colleagues who are struggling, use supportive language, educate yourself and colleagues about mental health, encourage group engagement, and create policies that help employees who need it.
Talking to a Colleague One on One
Knowing when and how to engage with someone who may be struggling with their mental health can be difficult. Talking about mental illness isn’t easy, particularly at work and particularly for people with a mental health condition. You don’t want to jump to conclusions about someone or seem judgmental. You don’t want to offend a colleague. And you want to respect professional and personal boundaries. It may be most challenging to speak to people who have a serious mental illness, as they are often the most stigmatized, making them extremely reluctant to talk about the issue.
Before talking to someone, listen and watch for signs that they are struggling, as well as for their potential sensitivities. For example, colleagues with serious and chronic issues may disclose their feelings but not their diagnosis. They may also experience self-stigma, …….