It’s Time to Ask, “How Can I Help?”

As I have progressed in my 18-year career, the need to have a strong awareness of the state of my mental health, and the effects of my job and personal life on it, has become increasingly apparent. The demand that women balance work and life is well known. However, what is lacking in the workplace is support and awareness for women dealing with mental health issues.

The World Health Organization reports that women are twice as likely to be diagnosed as suffering from depression as men. Additional research is needed to determine why this is the case. The intent of this article is not to understand why, but to expand on the need to appropriately respond when issues arise.

Women in the workforce need to recognize the importance of maintaining good mental health and promoting it in each other. As women progress in career and life, their realities often become increasingly complex, with an ever-increasing variety of demands. Becoming aware of the state of our own mental health and recognizing when our coping skills are becoming overwhelmed can have a profound effect on our personal and professional lives.

As I have taken on additional personal and professional roles and responsibilities, my mental health has fluctuated. Marriage, children, complex family situations, and career growth and changes have been stressors I have enjoyed, but which have also caused me frustration and anxiety. During these difficult times, some of the best help I received came from other women who reached out to talk and listen.

The stigma surrounding mental health issues remains prevalent, and my experience in the workplace is that we have failed to utilize our greatest assets—each other. Peer support provides the opportunity to receive emotional encouragement and tangible aid from individuals who have gone through similar situations. There is strong evidence that peer support can help maintain wellness.

No longer can we ask each other, “Are you okay?” and hope for a quick response, because we are too busy or struggling in our own situation. We owe it to ourselves and others to follow that question with this one: “How can I help?” It’s time to bring additional perspective and curiosity to the situation.

Colleagues, when another woman is wringing her hands or you notice she is overly distracted, do yourself, her, and others a favor and offer her your genuine support.