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7 Ways To Be A Mental Health Ally At Work

Because mental health matters - even at work.

Many professionals spend a large portion of their day at work - the average person will spend 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime.

Our job can make a huge impact on our quality of life. Understanding you are not alone, it is important to understand how you can help support and better treat coworkers with mental health challenges.

Read on for seven ways you can become a mental health ally at work.

Watch Your Language

Unfortunately, everyday speech is filled with words and phrases that are offensive and insulting to those with mental health conditions. Many of us have been guilty of using words and language out of habit that others may find offensive. You can become a better mental health ally by watching the words and phrases we use in and around the office.

For those experiencing mental health challenges, hearing words like "crazy" and phrases like “have a screw loose” can be extremely isolating and is not appropriate in a professional (or social) environment.

We must all be aware that language has the power to isolate entire groups of your peers and only adds to the stigma of mental health.

Use Neutral Language

Learning to use neutral language in the office can help reduce anxiety around the office.

General interactions and disagreements are more easygoing when you lead with statements with, "Here's what I'm thinking," and end with, "What are you thinking?" This allows for open and honest communication and helps people feel like their voices are heard.

Try to avoid phrases like "I need this now" and "I need you to be there." This creates a false sense of urgency and dependency which can create additional anxiety and inhibit your coworkers' focus. Instead, try, "I would like to have this by ____, does this work for you?" and "Your attendance in the meeting would super valuable as we are discussing ______."

Practice Empathy

Simply put, empathy is the ability to understand someone else's thoughts and feelings. Listening to your coworkers and considering their concerns can have a significant and positive impact on those with mental health issues.

When your coworkers confide in you about their mental health challenges, the below steps to practice and build empathy:

  • Listen without interruptions and distractions.

  • Pay attention to the person's body language.

  • Be mindful of your thoughts

  • Avoid making assumptions about why the person is experiencing mental health issues.

  • Try not to give a pep talk.

  • Continue the communication and engagement.

Don't Assume, Diagnose, or Label

If you have noticed changes in a coworker's behavior, or their performance or motivation has decreased significantly, do not assume that it is due to mental illness.

Considering the stigma of mental illness, such labels often serve to alienate others.

Also, a diagnosis should only come from a medical professional - mental health cannot be evaluated simply through one's behavior.

Suggest Resources

Many companies provide free, confidential, and voluntary counseling services through an Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

Your job's EAP is a resource designed to help employees understand and overcome personal problems that directly impact their mental health and daily life.

Offer your coworker the EAP number (in an accepting and caring way). If your company does not have an EAP, encourage your colleague to reach out to his or her primary care physician or other mental health or substance abuse resources.

Empower, But Do Not Invade

If you have provided your coworker with EAP information or other resources, it is okay to follow up to see how they are doing. However, it is inappropriate to specifically ask whether they have called EAP or sought counseling. This is an invasion of their privacy.

Empower your coworker's self-care by providing support and information, then move on.

Stay Educated

As an ally, it is important to try to understand, ask questions, and educate yourself when something is unclear to you.

Below are some helpful resources to look more into the topic of mental health and stay educated.


How do you support your coworkers with mental health issues? How can you be better supported at work when dealing with mental health issues?

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