It’s Blue Monday – otherwise known as the most depressing day of the year. Why? That gloomy January weather, the return to normality after the festive period and intensified financial pressures all have their part to play.

It’s little wonder then that many of us can be left feeling… well, blue. Perhaps most especially in the workplace.

Anxiety, depression and stress can all stop people performing at their best, so it’s important for employers to support staff who are experiencing mental health problems – not only to retain valuable employees, but to send a clear message about business values.

With this in mind, we’ve put together a helpful list of ways to spot someone who may be struggling with their mental health, and some suggestions on how to help them…

Spotting someone struggling with their mental health

Look out for…

– Changes in behaviour, mood and interactions with colleagues

– Changes in work output, motivation and focus

– Lack of organisation, problems with making decisions and finding solutions to problems

– Seeming anxious or withdrawn, and losing interest in activities they previously enjoyed

– Changes in eating, smoking and drinking habits

It’s worth noting that, when it comes to mental health, everyone’s experience is different. While the above observations are all important factors to be aware of, there may actually be no obvious signs at all. That’s why it’s vital that you create a working environment where colleagues feel comfortable discussing mental health – stigma free!

Supporting someone struggling with their mental health

– Talk about it! Conversations about mental health shouldn’t feel awkward. Find a private, comfortable space – you might even choose somewhere outside of the workplace – and ask straightforward, open questions. Don’t judge – listen.

– Encourage them to seek support, like visiting their GP who’ll be able to talk them through the help that’s available to them. If your business has an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), direct them towards it. Charities like Mind and the Samaritans also offer a plethora of information on their websites, and support lines for people to call.

– Don’t forget to look after yourself too because you’ll be of no help to anyone if you’re struggling yourself. Ask for support if you need it. It can also be beneficial for you to understand more about the subject you’re dealing with – so reading up around mental health can be useful. Again, charity websites like Mind are great places to visit.

– Reassure them your door is always open. Not everyone will be ready to talk about their mental health, so don’t be offended if they’re not willing to open up just yet. The best thing to do is to make sure they know you’re happy to support them when they’re ready.

– Be positive and work together to find solutions. In some cases, colleagues may need some readjustments to be made at work in order to help them get back on track. You might need to make some suggestions, but in most cases they will know what they need better than anyone – whether that’s flexible hours, reallocating some tasks or something as simple as weekly catch-ups.

Across the UK today, the Samaritans are holding Brew Monday events at some of their branches, turning Blue Monday on its head by instead celebrating the typically British tradition of getting together over a cuppa. Why not join them by brewing up for someone you work with who might simply need a chat?

For more information on mental health, visit the Mind website.

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