Thanks to courageous founders and thoughtful recent reporting, depression and other mental health struggles among entrepreneurs are starting to come out of the closet.

At one time, the can-do culture of founders and a perceived need to appear successful conspired to keep quiet those engaged in the incredibly stressful pursuit of starting a business. They felt reluctant to talk about the toll that starting up was taking on them mentally. These days, more and more members of the community are willing to open up about their darker moments. So much so that some members of the startup ecosystem have organized a Geek Mental Health Week. We're now in the middle of it.

As part of the series of conversations around the event, over on blog A List Apart, Mica McPheeters, communications manager for Resource Guru, has written a great post about what happened when she installed the office's comfiest couch in her office. This bit of redecoration soon attracted colleagues looking to unwind, and McPheeters found herself the go-to person at her company for others looking for a supportive shoulder to lean on.

Among the everyday office grumblings, "I sometimes also heard about anxiety, depression, emotional baggage, counseling, complicated diagnoses, and the merits of medications. Finding out what people were dealing with often left me with absolutely no idea what to say. I'm no therapist," she confesses.

But over time and with a bit of careful reflection, she's apparently gotten better at supporting her struggling colleagues, closing her post with a list of thoughtful tips for others who find themselves in a similar position of wondering how best to help out an officemate with a mental health issue. In brief, she suggests:

  1. Specifically ask how the colleague would like for you to be there and support him or her.
  2. Do be a friend who "checks in."
  3. Do talk about other things, but don't not talk about the condition, either.
  4. Don't assume the person has forgotten the Internet exists.
  5. Don't say things like, "Can't you take a pill for that?"
  6. Don't think the individual has never heard about counseling or treatment.
  7. If it's an employee, ask what sort of accommodations would help him or her at work.

Check out McPheeters complete post for more thoughts on each of these suggestions as well as a deeper dive into her personal story.

If you've ever been either the struggling employee on the couch or the boss trying to respond compassionately, do you have any advice to share?

Published on: Oct 29, 2014