With all the news about suicide, I find myself paying more attention to those around me. I’ve noticed one of my coworkers appears depressed although I’m just guessing. We’re not particularly close but I’d hate to have something happen and wish I’d done something. What do you recommend? P.E., New York, NY
One upside to suicide in the news is that it has raised awareness of this very real issue. I’m glad you’re paying attention to how the people you interact with regularly are showing up at work—I think we could all do a better job of that. That said, there’s a fine line between caring and overstepping.
Everyone has a need for connection and a need to be heard. In the situation you describe, you don’t have enough information to know what, if anything, is needed. What if you spent some time getting to know your coworker better? Suggest a coffee or a lunch date and spend that time speaking about topics outside of work.
Be careful not to let your supposition color your conversation; you’re there to get to know them better, not to evaluate their mental state. If they choose to open up to you and are, in fact, depressed, listen. You’re not there to solve the problem, especially since it’s not your area of expertise.
Ask if they’d like you to provide resources, such as the contact info for the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which many medium- to large-sized workplaces provide. Or the contact info for the right person in HR to handle this type of confidential situation. Naturally, keep your conversations confidential and make sure your colleague knows you will do so.
Your concern is admirable and taking appropriate action makes perfect sense. However, remember that ultimately this is not your problem to solve.
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