How to support a colleague who is dealing with a mental illness

1 in 6 workers, are dealing with a mental health problem such as anxiety and depression.   Organizations perform better when staff are healthy and focused. The support people receive from employers is the key in determining how well and quickly they are able to get back to work. Standing by someone when they are experiencing a mental health problem sends out a clear message about the organizations values and lets others know they are supportive.  Having a clear mental health strategy and specific polices will help deal with such issues.

Ways you can support a colleague or employee

Sometimes people worry there should be a certain way that they should talk to someone about a mental health issue but there are no hard and fast rules. Below are some points and how you can help someone:

  • Choose an appropriate place somewhere that is private and quiet.
  • Ask simple and non-judgmental questions
  • Let the employee or colleague explain how their mental health manifests, the triggers, and how it impacts on them and their work.
  • Identify the support they need do not make assumptions.
  • Looks at ways you can offer support during a difficult period.
  • Respond flexibly and adapt the support to suit the individual.
  • Involve the individual as much as possible.
  • Make reasonable adjustments.
  • Be honest and clear, if there are specific concerns such as absence levels.

10 Ensure confidentiality and reassure the person.

11 Discuss what information can be shared and with whom.

12) Develop an action plan and work with the colleague or employee.

13) Identify the support needs and seek any advice or support.

14) Encourage the colleague or employee to talk and seek help.


The role of a manager plays a crucial role for organizations that want to encourage a strong performance and support employee wellbeing. It is important for any manager who may have an employee ill with mental health to tailor their needs.

Also monitor workloads and set realistic targets and be clear about priorities and have regular one to one catch ups and identify any upcoming challenges where support maybe required. Spotting signs that a colleague/ employee may have a mental health issue is better sooner so steps can be put in place to assist the person. Asking a team member how they are doing and developing a wellness action plan, is a good strategy.

If a team members mental illness amounts to a disability then the organization must consider making “Reasonable adjustments” to help the person carry out their job.

ACAS offers good support resources on dealing with such issues in the workplace

NHS choices health is also useful.

It is important to maintain contact as lack of contact can lead to misunderstandings. If you are a manger, occupational health can be a great support and offer help such as counselling etc., and ways to support the employee.

Helpful organizations. The leading mental health charity. offers free and confidential support for anyone absent from work and aims to help people stay in employment, or return to work. Leading mental health charity 0300 5000 92

Saneline 0300 304 700 430


claudetteClaudette is a passionate campaigner and activist for mental health stigma and domestic abuse. She believes that everyone should be treated equally regardless of their disability or gender. She has diagnoses of Bipolar Disorder, endometriosis, Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia. Claudette has a certificate in Management studies.  Her interests include beauty, makeup, animal’s politics, current affairs and social networking.

You can follow Claudette on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

One thought on “How to support a colleague who is dealing with a mental illness

  1. Great blog Claudette. You’re right about managers playing a pivotal role in the workplace. I had some terrible managers that made my mental health problems much worse.

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