Mental Health Awareness: What You Can Do to Help

Mental Health Awareness: What You Can Do to Help was originally published on Vault.

All throughout the month of May we’ve been covering a variety of topics relating to mental well-being, from the telltale signs of burnout at work, to the different types of mental health leave available to you. Today we’re going to flip the script and talk about what you can do to help those around you, as well as some tips on how you can help your employer become better equipped to deal with issues of mental health in the workplace.


Education and Awareness

You should always first consult your employee handbook or a Human Resources representative to find out what types of programs are offered at your place of employment. Some employers offer specialized courses or programs on a variety of topics that can be beneficial to their employees, such as stress management training or empathy training.

If your employer doesn’t offer such programs, try encouraging them to do so. If you’ve gathered a bunch of information and materials regarding the program or programs, your employer might be more inclined to look into them. It cannot be overstated that happy workers make for an efficient and positive workplace, so your employer should want to do everything in their power to foster a healthy environment.

A good place to start is the CDC’s Workplace Health Resource Center (WHRC), as it offers a number of tools, guides, and other various resources that your employer can use to help develop and maintain their own workplace health programs. In addition, the WHRC provides case studies that can be used to help educate individuals regarding any number of health-related topics.


Get Involved

If your employer already offers its own education and support programs, you might be able to participate on some level. Let’s say your employer offers a course on financial planning and you just so happen to be a pro on the subject – try asking if you can participate in the course as an educator or presenter.

Your employer may also host activities that are used to educate and raise awareness on a variety of health topics. If something is especially close or important to you, you may be able to help organize or run an out-of-the-office event that can be beneficial to your coworkers. If you’ve got a great idea for an event, share it with your employer and explain that you’d be happy to help in any way you can.

Events such as fun runs, bowling, or trivia night that are used to help raise awareness or donations for a charitable cause can not only be educational and fun, but they will provide employees with a sense of connection and camaraderie that will continue long after they’ve gone back to work.


Be A Friend

Maybe your employer already has all their bases covered when it comes to employee resource programs and scheduled events. Don’t fret – there are still ways in which you can help! Many of us have gone through our own struggles with mental well-being, and will recognize the signs of trouble when we see them. If you see one of your coworkers struggling, offer to help them out.

Sometimes a simple hello is all it takes to boost someone’s mood, but there are many ways you can help a stressed-out coworker. If you’ve got the time and the clearance from your boss, offer to help with a project in any way you can. Sometimes this can be as simple as performing the menial tasks such as making copies, or writing an email. When someone is stressed out, even simple things can seem arduous, and most people won’t turn down a helping hand.

If you are observing a coworker who seems to be in distress, talking with them can help. Now, we want to be careful here because we don’t want to pry or make anyone uncomfortable, so you’ll have to use your own discernment with each unique situation. Try speaking in general terms; “Is everything okay?” is a good way to start. You’ll be able to tell from the response whether a coworker wants to talk about it or not. If you want to play it safe, just tell them you’re there if they want to talk, and offer to take them to lunch so they can get out of the office for a bit.

Lastly, if you are aware of the issue and you can speak from experience, try sharing your own story. Often times, this will help to eliminate the stigma that is sometimes associated with having mental health issues, and will make those suffering feel more comfortable, and less alone. Use your own best judgment, and learn to recognize boundaries. Sometimes it’s as simple as maintaining the status quo with your coworkers that will help them persevere through their own issues.