How can you help if you know a colleague is suffering at work?
In early 2019 we helped one of our members, Grand Central, introduce a mental health awareness course into the workplace. The RAILS model (below) was designed to help staff at a practical level and was included in the course material. We thought it would be useful to share too. To assist a person in crisis, RAILS is useful in providing the right prompts to give someone the confidence for handling tough mental health situations.
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. Be sensitive because it may be difficult for them to talk. Watch for signs that they may be experiencing a crisis situation: alcohol or substance abuse, suicidal thoughts and behaviours, panic attacks, aggressive behaviour, trauma after an incident, psychotic states and medical emergencies.
Ask the other person how they are feeling. You may have noticed that they are behaving differently from usual, fatigued, anxious, stressed, melancholy or depressed. Empathise and express concern but refrain from giving advice.
Listening works best if you can be non-judgmental. Try to put your judgments aside, treat the person with respect and dignity and 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 give them hope for recovery and help them to recover faster. Encourage the person to seek appropriate professional support wherever appropriate. This could be workplace support, seeing a doctor, counselling or therapy.