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How to Help a Male Co-Worker With Depression

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October 10 is World Mental Health Day. This year, the WHO is focusing on mental health in the workplace.

We spend a lot of time with our co-workers and are sometimes in a better position than one’s friends or family to notice if they are feeling more stressed or down than usual. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reports that men die by suicide 3.5x more often than women in the US, and many suicide attempts go unreported. Therefore, it’s especially important to pay attention to your co-workers’ health when they are dealing with additional stressors or potential triggers, like losing a family member, having a new child, dealing with a break-up or upcoming deadlines at work.

Depression can happen to anyone, so it’s important to know the signs and be ready to lend a hand.

1. Let him know you are there.

For a lot of guys, it’s hard to open up to another person. Rather than suggesting he might be depressed, try mentioning specific changes in his mood or behavior. He might not be ready to talk, so let him know you’re there whenever he might be ready. Be empathic, open-minded and non-judgmental. For example:

“You seem pretty stressed and tired these days. Something wearing you down?”

“You haven’t seemed like yourself the last few weeks. Is anything up, maybe something I could help with?”

2. Help him reach out.

Depending on how close your relationship is, you may not be best suited to provide ongoing support. Encourage your co-worker to talk to his partner, friends or family members to begin building up a team of supporters — which may include you.

If you know his friends or family, it may be a good idea to mention to them that you are concerned about him, so they can take further action to ensure he’s getting the support he needs.

3. Encourage him to see a doctor.

As a supporter, your role isn’t to diagnose or provide treatment. If your co-worker hasn’t done so already, encourage him to consult a doctor. If available, you can also help look into options for him to connect with counseling services through your HR department. You don’t have to mention his name and this may also help connect you with other employees who have more experience with mental health.

If you don’t know which services to suggest or if nothing is available through your work, call a health line or search online to learn about local services. Taking this step can be a big help for your co-worker who’s likely feeling more tired than usual or burned out.

4. Go for a walk or get something to eat together.

Getting some exercise and eating healthy can be a huge help in reducing stress and fighting depression. Ask your co-worker to go on a short walk during your lunch break. Some guys are more comfortable helping others than helping themselves, so they may be more receptive if you frame the issue as if they are giving you a hand. For example:

“Let’s go for a short walk, I need to stretch my legs.”

“Have you eaten anything today? Let’s grab a coffee or sandwich, I’m starving.”

5. Help him leave work at work.

Try not text, email or call him about work before or after hours or over the weekend.

6. Help shoulder the weight.

Help out with small things to get him through the day. Maybe bring lunch for two people, extend a deadline or help him to finish up his work on time. For example:

“No worries, we can get this work done tomorrow.”

“I have some extra time, anything I can help with?”

7. Help him stay connected.

When depressed, guys tend to withdraw and isolate themselves. Unfortunately, this often leads to feeling more isolated and alone. Make sure to say hello at work or invite him out for coffee or something else he might enjoy.

If your co-worker isn’t well enough to work and is taking some time off to get better, make sure to stay connected. Send him a message to see how he’s doing, or give him a quick call to let him know you’re thinking about him. For example:

“Glad you’re taking some time off to prioritize and sort out your health. Hope you’re feeling better.”

“Looking forward to having you back at work, whenever you feel ready.”

8. Set limits.

Remind yourself there’s a limit to the support you can offer, and you can’t be expected to fill the role of a closer friend, family member or health professional.

If things become overwhelming and you need a break, be honest. Let him know what’s going on and work toward a more sustainable level of support.

9. Create a healthier work environment.

Make sure to consider the mental health of all your co-workers in all work decisions. This could mean extending a deadline, reducing potential stressors or dangers, or avoiding any stigmatizing language or jokes around the office.

Learn more about World Mental Health Day 2017 and workplace mental health here.

This article is also published on

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

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Photo by Andrew Worley on Unsplash

Originally published: April 5, 2023
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