How can you help if you know a colleague is suffering at work?

Recently, CIRAS has received several reports on the topic of workplace abuse which can affect staff wellbeing. We have been helping one of our members, Grand Central introduce a mental health awareness course into the workplace.

This model was designed to help staff at a practical level and has been included in the course material – we thought it would be useful to share with our readers too.

In terms of what to do to assist a person in crisis, the RAILS model is useful in providing the right prompts to provide the confidence for handling tough mental health situations.

Remain calm

Check in with yourself first. As a rule, you are much more able to help others if you can remain calm yourself. If a situation seems very challenging, taking a few deep breaths can make a big difference before you decide to approach someone.


Plan the best way to approach the person you are concerned about. Assess the situation as best you can. Sensitivity is required because it may be difficult for the person to talk about. Watch for signs that they may be experiencing a crisis situation: alcohol or substance abuse suicidal thoughts and behaviours panic attacks aggressive behaviours trauma after an incident psychotic states medical emergency.


Engage the person and ask them: ‘how are you feeling?’. You may have noticed they are: behaving differently from usual fatigued anxious stressed melancholy or depressed. Empathise with them and express your concern, but refrain from giving advice.


Listening works best if you can be non-judgmental. In order to do this: try to put your judgments aside treat the person with respect and dignity keep an open mind ask ‘how long have you been feeling this way?’ give them space to tell their story.


The support you provide can be practical and emotional. By being there for someone in crisis, you can: give them hope for recovery help them to recover faster. Encourage the person to seek appropriate professional support wherever appropriate. This could be in the form of: workplace support doctor counselling or therapy.