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

Many people will be hesitant to starting a conversation out of fear of

  • causing offence or making things worse
  • harming their working relationship
  • not wanting to get involved
  • not being sure how to respond

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's feeling – the topic is just a bit more delicate. Remember you may be the only person to have noticed changes in their behaviour or have the courage to start a conversation.  This may be pivotal in them getting the help and support that they need to get and stay well.

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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)?
  • Find out what other support services are available
  • 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.

Learn about anxiety and depression

 


 

What to say

Whether you’re a manager concerned about someone in your team or speaking to another workmate, 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.    

 

Conversation tips

  • How to start

  • Listen carefully

  • Respond

 


 Next steps 

  • Discuss options for further support.
  • Finish the conversation with a plan/next steps.
  • Appreciate that they opened up and shared their story with you.
  • Make a note to check in with them again in a few days.
 

Unexpected outcome? 

  • If they don't want to speak about it, respect their choice, but leave the door open for another conversation at another time. 
  • You may need to have a few tries to open a conversation.
  • Just by showing support and offering to talk, you can make a difference. The person might take action at a later stage or continue the conversation with others.
  • If they disclose that they are at are feeling suicidal or they are planning on taking their own life seek guidance from a manager, HR professional or EAP immediately, or contact Lifeline.
 

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 the person's privacy.


 

Resources

Approaching a workmate you think might be struggling can seem daunting. This interactive resource provides tips and pointers on having the conversation.

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.

Don’t forget about privacy rights – make sure you get their permission before you share their situation with anyone else who may need to know more about the situation.

 

Further reading and resources

  • beyondblue’s Support Service – 1300 22 4636 – for information and advice on depression, anxiety and related conditions, available treatments and where to get help. The information line is not a counselling or crisis line. 
  • beyondblue resources, including fact sheets, booklets, flyers and DVDs. These resources can be ordered online or over the phone
  • beyondblue website, for information on depression, anxiety and suicide prevention, available treatments and where to get help
  • Youthbeyondbluefor information designed for young people on depression, anxiety and how to help a friend
  • SANE Australia’s website and helpline – 1800 18 SANE (7623) – provides information about symptoms, treatments, medications, where to go for support and help for carers. 
  • If you work in a larger organisation, your workplace’s human resources managers and internal support services, such as an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)