Have you noticed a colleague behaving differently? Do they not seem their usual self?

If you're concerned about someone, approach them and start a conversation. Try to understand their situation and encourage them to seek support.

Helping the person find further information and support services can also be really useful, as this step can seem overwhelming for someone with anxiety or depression.

Remind yourself that this is no different to talking about how someone is feeling – the topic is just a bit more delicate.

Speaking openly reduces

stigma

and encourages people to seek support

Planning the conversation

When you’re preparing to approach someone, it can be helpful to:

  • Find out what help is available within your workplace. If you work in a larger organisation, does it have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)?
  • Consider who should be having the conversation. Are you the best person or would another workmate or someone from HR be more suitable?
  • Think about the most appropriate time and place. Find somewhere private where the person will feel comfortable.

What to say

Whether you’re a manager concerned about someone in your team or speaking to another colleague, the following tips will help you have the conversation. Don’t worry if you don’t quite know what to say. Just by being supportive and listening, you’re helping to make a difference.    

HOW TO START 

  • There's no right way of expressing things – the main thing is to be thoughtful and motivated by genuine concern.
  • You don’t need to have all the answers – it’s about the conversation and the support you offer by talking.
  • Say what feels comfortable for you.
  • If what you say doesn’t sound quite right, stop and try again. It doesn’t have to be the end of the conversation.

LISTEN CAREFULLY 

  • Remember that this is their story, so don’t try to guess how it plays out. Instead, listen and ask questions.
  • Be aware of your body language. To show you’re listening, try to maintain eye contact and sit in a relaxed position.
  • Repeat back your understanding of what they've said and make sure it's accurate.

RESPOND 

Think about the best way to respond. You can’t fix things, but you can help them along the way. You might:

  • decide that today you're just there to listen and offer support
  • talk about it again another time
  • keep checking in with them
  • reassure them that you'll respect their privacy
  • think about what they need now and ask what you can do to help.

WHAT TO DO
NEXT 

  • Discuss options for further support.
  • Finish the conversation with a plan/next steps.
  • Appreciate that they opened up and shared their story with you.

LOOK AFTER YOURSELF 

  • If the conversation has worried you, think about how you can relax or debrief.
  • Talk to someone for support and/or advice but remember to respect employee privacy.

UNEXPECTED OUTCOME? 

  • Be relaxed if the discussion doesn’t go as you’d hoped. If the person doesn’t want to speak about it, respect their choice, but leave the door open for further dialogue.
  • The discussion might not be immediately successful and you may need to make a few attempts to open a conversation. However, your actions may still make a difference. The person may choose to act at a later stage or continue the conversation with others.

Resources

Approaching a colleague you think might be struggling can seem daunting. This interactive resource provides tips and pointers on having the conversation, what you could ask and providing support.

Sometimes a simple "Are you OK?" can make all the difference. This site can help you start a conversation with someone you're concerned about.