Do’s and Don’ts When Coworkers Confide in You About Their Mental Health

by Heidi Crux via Fairygodboss | March 23, 2018

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depressed girl

The rising awareness of mental health issues has aided the efforts in the widespread acceptance of mental illness, but we still have a long way to go before mental illness is destigmatized in the workplace.

According a recent study, three out of four employees with mental health issues keep their mental illness a secret a work. While this means that the vast majority of people who suffer from mental health issues don't feel comfortable sharing them with coworkers, it also means that about 25 percent of workers with mental health issues are confiding with at least one coworker about their health.

So what are you to do if someone you work with comes to you and tells you they have a mental illness? Here are some do’s and don’ts to consider.

Do's

1. Thank them for coming to speak to you and trusting you with this information.

2. Let them talk. Let them divulge as much or as little as they are comfortable with.

3. Ask them what you can do for them. How can you aid them in their management of this illness?

4. Help them navigate company policies, insurance benefits, or be a go-between with HR.  

Don’ts

1. Tell them that this is an issue they may want to take up with HR.

2. Ask questions as to the reasons behind, or projected duration of this ‘illness.’

3. Say you understand. Each person is unique as is their perception and experience of the illness.

4. Treat them with kid gloves. They are the same as any other employee who may have a health issue. 

A final thing to consider: Can you imagine a loved one with cancer having to lurk in the shadows, seeking treatment on their own and suffering through chemotherapy treatments, emotional, psychological, and physical pain all by themselves? Of course not. But a person with a mental health issues often does, and this has to stop.

The good news is you can do your part to help turn it around. And you can start right now, at your place of work, by remembering and, if you're confided in, using the above eight tips.

A version of this post previously appeared on Fairygodboss, which helps women get the inside scoop on pay, corporate culture, benefits, and work flexibility. Founded in 2015, Fairygodboss offers company ratings, job listings, discussion boards, and career advice.

Filed Under: Workplace Issues

Tags: coworkers | health and wellness | medical insurance | mental health | mental illness

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