Employer Insights

Mental Health in the Workplace - R U OK

Shannon Barlow Posted by Shannon
min read
Dustin Belt Lg4f M9 Y2p Gg Unsplash

Noticed something doesn’t seem quite right with a colleague?

Read on for encouragement on how to support a colleague you think may be struggling with mental health issues or thoughts of suicide.

Historically, the workplace hasn’t always been a place for personal matters, especially those as sensitive as mental health and suicide - but with New Zealand’s suicide rate increasing once again in the past year by an alarming 2.5% there’s no room to skirt around this topic.

It's time to start asking those around us;

“Are you okay?”

Sometimes it feels difficult to know how to approach a colleague and remain sensitive to their privacy but if you can sense a colleague is struggling with life - it’s utterly worth saying something.

“Yes, it could feel awkward but unless we open up a dialogue, we will never know what’s going on in people’s minds” says Jane Kennelly, Business Relationship Director at Frog Recruitment and people2people, “but if you approach the topic with sensitivity and genuine compassion you really can help those who need support.”

Ways to approach a conversation:

  • Listen and make sure they feel understood.

This justifies their emotions and ensures they don’t feel trivialised. Avoid comments like “that’s not so bad’ or ‘you’ll get through it’ – as these be diminishing and undermining.

  • Don’t take the problem on by yourself

What services are available? Do they include free counselling sessions? Seeking guidance confidentially from a manager can help alleviate the pressure.

  • Normalising and fostering an atmosphere of empathy and openness in the workplace

This will help people who might feel uncomfortable opening up and to understand it’s perfectly Ok to do so - rather than fear they may be ridiculed or ostracised.

  • Help them find support.

“By being tuned-in observers of our colleagues, and asking them this simple question could be the difference between a work mate giving you a glimpse of why they are feeling the way they are - versus being closed down and possibly choosing to make a really serious mistake,” says  Kennelly. 


If you need to talk to or need advice; below are a list of organisations that offer all kinds of free support:

  • 1737, Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor
  • Lifeline: 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland
  • Youthline: 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email talk@youthline.co.nz or online chat
  • Samaritans : 0800 726 666
  • Suicide Crisis Helpline : 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
  • What's Up?: 0800 942 8787 (for 5–18 year olds). Phone counselling available Monday to Friday, midday–11pm/weekends, 3pm–11pm. Online chat is available 7pm–10pm daily.
  • Kidsline: 0800 54 37 54 (0800 kidsline) for young people up to 18 years of age. Open 24/7.
  • thelowdown.co.nz: email team@thelowdown.co.nz or free text 5626
  • Anxiety New Zealand: 0800 ANXIETY (0800 269 4389)
  • Supporting Families in Mental Illness: 0800 732 825