How to talk to your colleague about depression

17 December 2020

On a typical day we arrive at our workplace and the first thing we do is greet our colleagues. This conversations usually goes something like this:

- “Hi” / “Good Morning” / “Howzit” (and is often followed by…)

- “How are you?” / “How’s it going?” (which is usually responded to with…)

- “I’m fine” / “OK, how are you?”

We then go about making coffee and getting on with our day. We may miss the opportunity to pick up on whether a colleague is really OK. Does that even matter?

The answer is yes, it matters a great deal.

Research shows that if people are able to feel higher levels of authenticity at work, it leads to greater job satisfaction, engagement, and better performance. When someone is suffering with depression, a change in their motivation and levels of engagement at work will typically be one of the first things you may notice.

Clinical depression is a very common psychological problem, and most people never seek proper treatment, or seek treatment but they are misdiagnosed with a physical illness. This is extremely unfortunate because, with proper treatment, nearly 80% of those with depression can make significant improvement in their mood and life adjustment.

Next time someone answers “I’m fine” and you’re concerned about them, take a moment and ask again, “Are you sure, it looks like something is troubling you?” Many people may not want to talk about personal problems at work, and that’s fine.

Just by offering a friendly ear who is willing to listen, you will already be helping.

Finally, remember that if your colleague does confide in you, you don’t need to become their therapist. If you feel the conversation is going beyond what you feel confident in dealing with, say something like: “I am sorry to hear that you’re dealing with that. I think you may need to speak to someone who has more expertise with this than me. Who else might you talk to who can be a good resource for you?”

These days many larger companies have Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP’s) that provide free counselling services. Otherwise please contact Akeso to discuss other resources available..