Opening up about one’s mental health is not easy. It can be particularly challenging in a work environment, where the pressures of professional performance, workplace culture, and the fear of judgment can create barriers.

In the hustle of meeting deadlines and maintaining a professional image, individuals may find it difficult to express their vulnerabilities. The concern over how colleagues and superiors might perceive their mental health struggles can lead to a reluctance to seek support, exacerbating feelings of isolation.

However, organisations around the globe are increasingly recognising that opening up about mental health is not just beneficial, but essential for cultivating a positive and productive workplace. By encouraging open dialogue and offering support, they can create an environment where employees feel safe to express their concerns and seek help.

The following section outlines general signs to look out for, indicating that someone might be struggling, and provides guidance on how to approach these sensitive conversations.

Signs that someone might not be ok

We’re all different and everyone reacts to challenges in their own way. But there are general signs you can look out for that might suggest someone is not ok.

Remember, some people may show several of these signs, whilst others may show one, two, or none. Some of these emotions will be more difficult to spot.

  • Restlessness or agitation
  • Anger or aggression
  • Crying
  • Lacking energy or being tired
  • Withdrawing or being distant
  • Not replying to messages or phone calls
  • Feeling hopeless or worthless
  • Gambling
  • Avoiding social activities

Dr. Katy James, mental health clinical director at Vita Health Group, says,

Talking about mental health isn’t easy and often the stigma around it prevents people from accessing the support they need. However, the more we talk about how we feel, the more mental health becomes normalised and the easier it becomes for people to reach out for help. You don’t have to be a mental health expert to help someone open up. The main thing is that you’re there to support them.

Dr. Katy James, mental health clinical director at Vita Health Group


Eight ways to help someone open up about their mental health

Dr. James has shared eight ways to help someone open up about their mental health:

1/ Choose a good time (i.e., when you and the other person are not rushing around doing other things)

2/ Try to speak in a place without distractions

3/ Avoid closed questions that prompt a yes or no response

4/ Use open-ended questions: “How are things with you?” “How do you feel about that” “How is that impacting your life?”

5/ Listen respectfully and avoid jumping in or cutting the person off

6/ However tempting it might be, resist the temptation to find a solution. Your emotional support is what’s important

7/ Let them know you’re there to support them anytime

8/ Talk to them about potentially seeking extra support/ professional help: “Have you considered speaking with your GP?”

We all experience times when we feel like we can’t cope, sometimes this can start to affect our everyday lives and prevent us from doing the things we normally do. This is when we must seek some support to get things back on track.

If you live in England and are aged 18 or over, you can access NHS talking therapies services for anxiety and depression. A GP can refer you, or you can refer yourself directly without a referral. Find an NHS talking therapies service, here:

Editor at Workplace Wellbeing Professional | Website | + posts

Joanne is the editor for Workplace Wellbeing Professional and has a keen interest in promoting the safety and wellbeing of the global workforce. After earning a bachelor's degree in English literature and media studies, she taught English in China and Vietnam for two years. Before joining Work Well Pro, Joanne worked as a marketing coordinator for luxury property, where her responsibilities included blog writing, photography, and video creation.