Being supportive of colleagues with mental illness

You have recently been moved to a new department within your organization and are looking forward to maximizing the opportunities you have been given. In your recent change you have been introduced to some new colleagues, one of which suffers from a mental illness. Your awareness and support can not only allow you to feel more confident around this individual, but enable him or her to perform their best. At Fellman Law Office, we have helped many Minnesota businesses to create protocols designed to protect their workers, especially those who are vulnerable.

The Society for Human Resource Management suggests several helpful tips for employers as they work to accommodate the needs of their employees who suffer from mental illness. However, these tips may apply equally to your efforts to befriend and support colleagues who are experiencing mental illness. Some of the things you should remember include the following:

  • Learn about the illness: One of the best things you can do is to become educated. Take the time to learn about the illness your colleague has so you can better understand how to communicate with him or her.
  • Be aware of accommodations: There may be certain situations where your coworker will require specialized accommodations to perform his or her job. Be supportive and refrain from making comments even if they are meant in good fun.
  • Do not judge: While it may be easy to gawk or ask questions, be careful in the way you approach your coworker. Approaching the topic of their illness in an appropriate and genuine manner can be much more effective than saying something deliberately and irrationally.

Mental illness is a very real problem and the workplace is no exception for people who suffer from such disabilities. If you have coworkers who experience these difficulties, it is in your best interest to remember the tips above so you can be more supportive and understanding. For more information about workplace illnesses, visit our web page.

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