It’s a beautiful day, and your company has organized a picnic lunch so employees can socialize and enjoy the weather. You’re having some food and chatting with co-workers when you notice one of your colleagues sitting by himself looking distressed. Concerned, you make your way over and sit down.
You ask if everything is all right, and your co-worker spills it. He feels like his life is completely falling apart. His wife has filed for divorce, which he didn’t see coming. His finances are a mess. He’s distracted at work and is having a hard time getting his job done.
His team is frustrated and thinks he’s a downer. He confides that he just can’t take it anymore and doesn’t know how he’s going to make it through.
You don’t know what to say. You certainly weren’t expecting this. You think about changing the subject to distract him or insisting that things aren’t so bad before making your exit. So what do you do?
There’s certainly a better way to talk to someone who needs help. Trite platitudes are not the answer. It’s important to realize that your co-worker is in a serious emotional place. He’s sharing triggers of depression and hopelessness that could lead to thoughts of self-harm or suicide.
Talking to anyone about their depressive thoughts and feelings can be difficult and even awkward. But the best way to help your friend is to ask questions like “How best can I support you?” and “Have you thought about getting help?” If someone says things like “I’m so depressed, I can’t go on,” ask if they are having thoughts of suicide. You are allowing them to share their pain with you—you are NOT putting thoughts in their head.
Listen with empathy and without judgment. Tell your co-worker that he is not alone, you are there for him, you care about him, and you want to help. Let him know that his life is important to you.
It’s a good idea to involve HR and encourage your co-worker to get help. And if you are concerned that this is an urgent issue, get help immediately and do not, under any circumstances, leave the person alone. The suicide crisis number is 988 and can be called from anywhere in the United States 24/7.
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