Helping a Friend and Coworker overcome depression

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  • Question:


    D2S3 asked...


    I'd like to know if I can get some suggestions on how I can help a coworker. She is going through many difficult times right now including being in the midst of buying a new house without having sold the old one, trying to get pregnant for a while and we work in a very stressful environment. My work relationship with her is that I am her team leader, but not her manager. I worked with her prior to this when she was in a different area of our company. We would interact and always had a great relationship.

    When my coworker joined our group about two years ago, she also started working remotely from home. I mention this because I think she finds it difficult not to have other coworkers around. I think she needs that socialization and personal interactions that you can't really mimic virtually although she does love working from home because there is no commute time. Prior to this, she was commuting almost an hour each way to and from work.

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    As I mentioned, we work in a very stressful environment and she has a lot of personal stresses going on as well. I am having difficulty with how I can try to help her (and not necessarily from a business perspective although I do have to be very careful with what I say). While talking to her on Friday, I mentioned to her how half the team was going to try a new procedure to help our clients while the other half of the team would proceed as normal during this trial period of about one week. She would need to proceed as normal, but could get some overflow issues from the trial team. At this point, she told me that she needed to call her doctor to get more Xanax.

    I honestly didn't think I was pushing her hard and my intention was to inform her of what was going on with the team this coming week. I don't know how I should react to this comment or how I can help her. I honestly don't know what to say to her and don't want to say the wrong thing. Do you have any suggestions on how I should handle this? What I could say to her?

    I gave you this background so that you would know where I am coming from and the position we are both in. I understand a little bit about depression and anxiety as I have some family members who have been diagnosed and even hospitalized for it, but I admit I have to do additional research on it. I also take a benzodiazepine for a different condition so I know some of the properties of Xanax and become very concerned about her personally when she makes these types of comments. I've also heard other team members say things about other comments she has made about Xanax.

    Any guidance you can give me is greatly appreciated.




    Dear D2S3,


    This is a tough situation. In some ways, it may be easier to help her since you're not her manager. Without knowing your coworker, it's difficult to know how she'd react to various approaches. If possible, having a conversation with her outside the office could be more productive. You'd be outside the stressful environment, and the conversation could be more private and informal.


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    In this position, I think I'd just ask her out for a cup of coffee sometime and tell her that you're a bit concerned. Ask her if there's anything that can be done to relieve some of the stress and to help her manage it better. From there, you'll have to measure her responses. Maybe a regular get together would make her feel more connected.


    Another thought is to ask her if the Xanax is really helping her. If it's not or if it's not helping as much as it used to, she might need some encouragement to mention this to her doctor.


    Of course, this is just one way this could be handled. It will be interesting to see what suggestions other members have.


    I do want to commend you for giving enough of yourself to be here looking for suggestions. Not everyone has a friend or coworker who is so aware and considerate.


    Good luck,


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Published On: October 01, 2007