4 Tips to Help a Coworker with Depression

November 27, 2019 Mahevash Shaikh

Do you have a strong feeling that one of your coworkers has depression and needs a little help at work every now and then? While it is kind of you to want to help instead of turning a blind eye to the whole situation, you have to use discretion lest you end up offending or pushing away your coworker. Here are four tried and tested tips that you can use to help a depressed coworker.

What to Do When Your Coworker Has Depression

1. Confirm Your Coworker Has Depression in a Private, Dignified Conversation

What with the stigma and discrimination against mental illness in general, do not point-blank ask your coworker if they have depression. If you do so, that person will most probably lie to you and say "no" in fear of losing respect, becoming another piece of gossip, etc.

Dip your toe into the pool and casually ask your coworker if he or she is doing alright because of late, your coworker is keeping to his or herself. The idea is to talk about general wellbeing by questioning your coworker as to why his or her normal behavior has changed. You can then go on to ask about work. Make it a point to not begin by asking questions like why his or her performance at work is slipping, because even if you mean well, your coworker might feel cornered or offended. Tread gently and show concern so that your coworker feels comfortable enough to confide in you. 

2. Ask How You Can Be of Assistance

When offering help to someone, we typically tend to do something by ourselves instead of asking that person what kind of help is needed. Now that your coworker has opened up and told you he or she is struggling with depression, it is the perfect time for you to offer your assistance.

Depression is one of those illnesses that makes one feel very, very alone, so merely offering your help will make your coworker feel less lonely. Depending on your coworker's needs, he or she will let you know what you can do. If your coworker is the shy kind, however, give options like offering to schedule meetings around his or her therapy sessions, being available if he or she just needs to talk about feelings, etc. 

3. Help Your Manager Set Realistic Deadlines

Depression affects all areas of a person's life, including productivity at work. In severe cases, it even makes one lose the will to work completely. Make your coworker's life easier by setting loose deadlines at work.

To avoid singling your coworker out, you can either convince your team to work at a slower pace or offer to help your depressed coworker with some tasks in case other employees cannot or will not agree to your suggestion. It will probably be hard for you to do someone else's work in addition to your own; but trust me, you will be helping manage your friend's depression by doing so. 

4. Approach Human Resources If You Are Not Able to Get Through to Your Coworker

Even if you are kind and non-judgmental, your coworker might still not feel comfortable enough to talk to you about his or her depression. But like cancer, depression is also an illness. And if one can speak with Human Resources (HR) if one has cancer, there's no reason why that person shouldn't approach HR if he or she has depression or any other mental illness.

However, make sure you treat the subject gently. For example, tell your HR person that you think so-and-so person may be struggling with depression instead of saying that he or she has depression and his or her work is suffering because of it. It is only when more of us make mental health a priority will it become an acceptable topic of conversation at workplaces everywhere.

At the very least, make sure you don't say anything inappropriate to them. Don't be like my ignorant coworker who I talk about in the video below. 

What would you do if you suspected your coworker lives with depression? Share your thoughts in the comments.

APA Reference
Shaikh, M. (2019, November 27). 4 Tips to Help a Coworker with Depression, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 25 from

Author: Mahevash Shaikh

Mahevash Shaikh is a millennial blogger, author, and poet who writes about mental health, culture, and society. She lives to question convention and redefine normal. You can find her at her blog and on Instagram and Facebook.

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