Five Ways to Support Women Struggling with PTSD at Work

So very many workplaces are heavily male-dominated. As a whole, men hold most leadership positions and earn more than their female counterparts. When a woman is coping with PTSD, especially from sexual violence, she might find it difficult to feel safe, seen, or heard. Additionally, women are often left out of the conversation about how to address their needs in the workplace. When they are included, they’re often only discussed from a surface level or as a simple afterthought. This makes tackling the systemic issues that contribute to mental health disparities in the workplace even more challenging.

There are ways to show your support and concern, both individually and for the larger community at work. Remember, you don’t need to know what it feels like for someone to experience traumatic events — all you need to do is show your colleagues that they aren’t alone.

1. Show that you care about your colleagues

There may be times in your work life when you don’t immediately recognize the symptoms of PTSD in a colleague. Even if you are aware of them, it can be difficult to put a finger on exactly what’s going on with someone — especially if they are keeping it to themselves, which can make it even harder to address the issue. When you see signs of PTSD in a colleague, accept that you probably don’t know what they’re going through, and you might never know the details of their trauma. All you need to understand is that they are struggling. Second, ask them how they’re doing and offer to listen. And finally, validate that they aren’t feeling as supported, and they deserve to be. These three simple steps can go a long way in showing that you care about mental health and sympathize with the challenges of PTSD.

2. Hold monthly networking events for women

In an effort to prevent burnout, some workplaces offer monthly networking events for staff members. Having opportunities to connect with other workers who have the same interests and hobbies (or struggles) can be extremely helpful for those who are looking for connection and validation. However, some health care facilities are hesitant to offer this type of time for their staff members. Be mindful about the way that you introduce this type of time to your colleagues. Offer to organize the first event, have a designated “networker” in charge of steering the group, and make sure that there are snacks and drinks available. If you bring snacks, they will come.

3. Support employee empowerment programs

Many workplaces offer a variety of programs that encourage communication and collaboration among workers. Some of these programs can include peer mentorship programs, wellness programs, or learning communities. Peer mentorship programs are especially helpful for those who are experiencing mental illnesses, as they can offer support and guidance through the process of treatment and recovery. Some companies also offer training or workshops that are relevant to your work duties, allowing you to stay on top of your professional development while still maintaining a healthy work/life balance.

4. Encourage your boss to provide on-site, private spaces to talk

One way to address the challenges of PTSD at work is by providing a safe space where struggling staff members can come together and talk. This could be a confidential room within the workplace (with locks for privacy), a counseling center on-site, or a professional space where staff members can go for help and support. Safe spaces enable people to feel seen and heard without any judgment from their co-workers.

5. Post a list of self-help resources in a public space

At work and in life, sometimes the only way to get treatment for mental health challenges is through self-help. This can feel overwhelming for many, so it’s important to acknowledge that it’s not easy to seek help on your own. Provide a list of local and national resources for support, like numbers to RAINN, NCADV, and your local women’s shelter. Tape them inside the stalls in the women’s restroom, so those who need them can find them without drawing attention to themselves.

I hope these give you some ideas or inspiration to help your colleagues in need.

May you find peace.

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