How to Help Someone at Work Who May be Depressed

Categories: Workplace Wellness

Considering people spend the majority of their day at work, it is often coworkers who first notice something is amiss. You may not know if it is serious depression — or the case of the holiday or winter blues — but it is helpful to learn how you can help.

First, recognize the symptoms.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, signs of depression can include a loss of interest in work, hobbies or other activities; withdrawal from social activities; chronic sadness, irritability or moodiness; physical ailments that don’t go away or chronic fatigue. Other symptoms could include uncharacteristic indecisiveness or forgetfulness; eating or not eating more than usual; abusing prescription or illegal drugs or alcohol.

Start a conversation.

It is hard to broach the subject of depression with a coworker. But if you approach them with compassion your chances of reaching him or her are better. Some ways you may want to try to start the conversation is to check in with the person and how he or she is feeling, with observations such as “I’ve noticed you seem down lately. I just want to see how you are doing,” or “You haven’t been going out after work with the regular gang and I am wondering if you are okay.” The person may or may not want to talk. However, if they do, listen with compassion – don’t offer advice. Remember, you’re not going to make everything “okay” with these conversations … but reaching out will go a long way in helping them feel cared for and understood. If they don’t want to talk, respect that. But don’t let it drop. Bring it up again if you continue seeing the depressed behavior – be persistent, yet gentle in your approach.

Resist the urge to “fix” people.

You may desperately want someone to reach out for help, but remember you can’t force anyone to get treatment or see a physician. Being there and listening with compassion can help. Continue to invite the person to go for walks, go to a movie or engage in other activities. Remember, alcohol is a depressant, which will only depress someone further, so avoid activities involving alcohol. Other “unhelpful” things include cliché statements, or attempts to “cheer up” a person. According to the Depression and Bi-Polar Alliance, avoid statements such as: “It’s all in your head,” “We all go through times like this,” “Look on the bright side,” or “Just snap out of it!” Instead, use phrases such as: “You are not alone … I’m here for you,” “I may not understand exactly how you feel, but I care and want to help,” “Tell me what I can do right now to help you.” Remember, being there for someone doesn’t mean you need to have all the answers.

Do you think your workplace could use a little help in creating a more positive environment? Contact the Workplace Wellness Advisors today.