ThinkOTB Agency

6 signs a colleague may be struggling with their mental health

October 10, 2019

Mental health is a topic high on everyone’s agenda and it’s high on the agenda here too at marketing and advertising agency OTB, and so it should be. We’ve come a long way as a society from telling people to “man up” or simply “get on with it”.

Being aware and able to spot the symptoms of mental illness manifesting is a priceless skill to have. In doing so, you can offer reassurance to those in need of it and make a positive contribution to their recovery. This can also help prevent disciplinary action being taken against someone who was really in need of support.

Today is World Mental Health Day and this year’s theme is suicide prevention. To signal its importance to us as an agency, we’ve come up with some tips to help you spot someone struggling so you can act appropriately and help increase workplace mental health.

Panic attacks

A colleague who is experiencing a panic attack might have shortness of breath, be sweating or suffering from chest pains. The best thing to do in this instance is to immediately soothe the colleague and advise them to seek medical attention afterwards. Their GP will be best placed on how to deal with these attacks in the long-term.

Psychological signs

Most people who experience mental health problems at work will try to keep things hidden, which doesn’t benefit anyone. Fears around discrimination and stigma prevent people from expressing how they’re truly feeling. It’s imperative that workplaces establish a culture of acceptance and tolerance, where seeking help always trumps keeping quiet. Spotting the signs early and providing the right support can make a real difference to improving someone’s mental health.


An increase in absences may hint at something more troubling than laziness or someone skiving off work. Often the natural response is to reprimand an employee but talking to them about the reason why may be more beneficial. Making an employee feel understood and offering good support in the workplace helps to significantly decrease absences.


Some of us are natural born risk takers, others not so much. If you notice a colleague taking out of character risks or not properly weighing up the consequences of their actions, they may be suffering inside. A disregard for consequences or thought process could be an indicator of inner turmoil. Beginning a dialogue with a colleague could be the start of uncovering the problem.


Probably the most obvious on the list but the sight of a crying colleague is enough for most people to exit a room entirely; people tend to avoid tearful awkwardness at any cost. Instead, why not place an arm around a colleague and offer an empathetic ear. A problem shared is a problem halved…

Unwarranted anger

If a colleague is particularly irritable or angry it may be a sign that something is awry with their mental health. This is a tell-tale sign, especially if they are calm and collected usually. Rather than fighting fire with fire and matching their anger, ask them to go for a quick walk with you; escaping the office might encourage them to explain why they’ve become so irritable. Once you’re aware of their personal problems and circumstances, you and your colleagues can make any necessary allowances.

How does your company support positive mental health at work? Which measures have you found to be particularly effective? We’d love to hear about them – share your thoughts with us at @otbtweeter


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