Work-life balance

How to Support Those with Mental Health Struggles

Mental health conditions affect millions of people in the U.S. every year. But what if a friend or coworker is one of those millions? We provide some insight in this blog.

Blog Author - Justworks
Apr 4, 20244 minutes
Blog Author - Justworks

Justworks is a technology company that levels the playing field for all small businesses. Through our software and as a partner, we help our customers take care of their teams, streamline their operations, and navigate the complex aspects of managing a workforce with confidence.

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Blog - Hero - depression-in-the-workplace

Everyone experiences some level of anxiety or depression at some point in their lives. It’s completely normal to feel worried before a job interview, a new outdoor adventure, or even a first date. But for some, mental health issues can interfere with leading a happy life — personally and professionally.

The U.S. Surgeon General released data showing that 76% of U.S. workers reported at least one symptom of a mental health condition. But it’s obviously not just work that causes stress. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting over 40 million adults. Depression isn’t far behind, with 21 million adults suffering from the condition.

Unfortunately, many people struggling with mental health don’t seek treatment. Some fear it will negatively affect their relationships, finances, and job status. Others are concerned about being stigmatized and prefer to keep their struggles private.

As a friend or coworker of someone that’s struggling, it can be difficult to know what to do. How can you tell if they’re struggling? What should you do to support them? We’ve laid out some tips below to make it easier for you to provide support to those who need it.

Recognizing Mental Health Struggles

We all have bad days from time to time. However, if you notice a friend or teammate is consistently having trouble focusing, is burnt out, acts out in meetings, calls in “sick,” or lacks the motivation to complete basic tasks, it should be a red flag that something more serious might be wrong.

Anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions can become debilitating, especially for those who suffer long-term. Add in work stress to the stress of everyday life, and you’re looking at a lot of stress to address. In fact, published research revealed that work stress (think long hours and job strain) is a leading cause of mental issues and suicidal thoughts among U.S. employees.

Being able to recognize emotional stress symptoms among your coworkers and friends is the first step in helping them cope and maintain a healthy outlook through their difficulties. Here are some common signs that an individual is experiencing mental health struggles:

  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering things, or making decisions

  • Excessive anxiety and worrying

  • Feeling exhausted due to lack of or too much sleep

  • Persistent headaches or stomach issues

  • Loss of interest in work and activities

  • Fatigue or loss of energy

  • Restlessness, irritability, or moodiness

  • Isolation, less social interaction, or reduced communication with friends, family, and team members

  • Increased absenteeism on the job or with other commitments

  • Feeling guilty, inferior, hopeless, or worthless

  • Having thoughts of suicide

Mental health issues (and their symptoms) can interfere with daily functioning, including work, social activities, and relationships. The impacts of mental health issues can become destructive and harmful to the individual suffering, as well as the people who surround and care about them.

Now that you know some of the most common signs to look out for (and how impactful they can be), what can you do to help?

Supporting Those With Mental Health Struggles

First, some good news for you — early diagnosis and effective treatment can lessen the severity of anxiety, depression, and stress. So, the sooner your friend or coworker seeks out the support they need, the sooner their symptoms might improve. But how can you help your friend or coworker get the help they need?

The following tips can help guide you in supporting your friend or coworker who may be struggling with their mental health.

Be Compassionate

The most important thing you can do for someone who’s struggling is to show compassion and empathy. Take time to listen in a nonjudgmental way, without interrupting or trying to "fix" anything. Ask how you can help, and if the situation seems severe, try to ask if they are thinking about suicide. If they say yes, help them call a hotline for experienced support or go with them to seek medical attention. If you’re at the office or chatting online with a remote worker, immediately notify your supervisor and Human Resource personnel.

Check Employer Mental Health Benefits

Remind your friends or fellow employees to explore the mental healthcare services offered by their employer’s health plan. These services often include an employee assistance program (EAP), teletherapy services, and urgent care providers. If they’re concerned about the cost, their insurance plan may cover the expense.

Counseling and Therapy

Counseling and therapy sessions offer professional care to help better manage stress, personal issues, and work-related problems… and it really works! Research shows that nearly 86% of employees treated for depression report improved work performance and reduced absenteeism.

Telehealth Services

If your coworker or friend is reluctant to go to counseling, ask them to consider telehealth (Talkspace is a popular one) as a virtual tool for their mental health. They may be more open to receiving treatment in a more comfortable and familiar setting, without having to commute or arrange for child care while receiving professional support.

Mental Health Apps

There is scientific documentation that access to health apps improves emotional health. These apps can help address common mental health issues. Some offer online talk therapy (similar to telehealth), while others promote meditation and mindfulness, help cope with stress, or improve sleep. While mental health apps may not replace professional help, they are often useful to create awareness, address some symptoms, and help prevent certain conditions from worsening.


Reputable toll-free helplines are usually free and provide information, counseling, and referrals to community-based services and resources. Helplines traditionally don’t require an appointment, which makes them extremely flexible. For example:

  • The National Alliance of Mental Illness allows you to call, text, or chat to find resources from the NAMI HelpLine at 800-950-6264 (or text "HelpLine" to 62640).

  • SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7 365-a-day- information service for mental health at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

  • The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline allows you to call or text 988 if you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide or experiencing a mental health crisis, and get connected to a trained crisis counselor 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


If you’re concerned about the mental stability of a team member specifically, encourage them to talk to their supervisor. It’s possible that a lack of work-life balance is affecting their mental health. A more flexible schedule or accommodations may help them increase job satisfaction and decrease stress. Also, encourage them to use their vacation time. Everyone needs time to refresh and renew, even if it’s just a staycation.

But remember — you are not a therapist. Refer your coworker to the appropriate resources and continue to be there for support, but don’t allow your days to become focused on problems that you yourself cannot fix.

Paying attention to the mental health of the people in your life is necessary, even if talking about it is uncomfortable. If you’re concerned about the mental health of a friend or coworker, don’t remain silent. There are affordable, confidential, and professional assistance programs to help. By speaking up, you can help them live a happier, more fulfilling life.

This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal or tax advice. If you have any legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.
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Blog Author - Justworks
Apr 4, 20244 minutes

Justworks is a technology company that levels the playing field for all small businesses. Through our software and as a partner, we help our customers take care of their teams, streamline their operations, and navigate the complex aspects of managing a workforce with confidence.

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