In response to questions that deal with mental health, it's common for the most upvoted answer to be something to the effect of "See a mental health professional." and then essentially leave it there.


A manager is triggering past trauma. What are my options?

During a 5 year work tenure I developed a fear of flying. How should I handle this with my employer?

Should I be talking to HR about my struggles with stress and depression at my workplace?

This one here is a good example where it provides advice beyond 'See a professional'

Can I get in trouble for being an unhappy person?

While 'see a professional' may be necessary advice, it is not always sufficient.

Mental health professionals are not a magic bullet. It's not like someone who is dealing with depression or anxiety or whatever, goes and sees a professional, and then bam, cured, just like a broken leg would be.

A mental health professional can provide medication and talk through techniques for addressing certain problems, but typically dealing with mental health issues requires making changes in every facet of one's life.

A mental health professional can be the right person to discuss these things with, but they shouldn't be the only person someone can discuss their mental health with. That would serve to be more isolating for the person with mental health issues.

My point of this post is to remind me that when answering questions relating to mental health, make sure you're not just 'washing your hands of' the issue. Saying 'see a mental health professional' might be a good first paragraph, but shouldn't be considered a complete answer.

  • 2
    Somewhat related discussion: We avoid legal opinions. Should we avoid medical/psychological opinions as well?
    – David K
    Jun 25, 2019 at 12:10
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    Many folks provide an answer that makes just the most important point. The first answer you linked does more than that - I'm not sure it's a good answer to prove your point. In general, if you don't think an answer is sufficient for any reason whatsoever, you should vote accordingly. Even better would be to write your own, more complete, answer. That's no different for an answer that said "find a new job", "talk with your boss", or "see a mental health professional". Jun 25, 2019 at 23:32
  • As already said, the SE way to deal with this problem is write another, maybe better or more complete answer.
    – nvoigt Mod
    Jul 4, 2019 at 14:53

2 Answers 2


While I understand the sentiment behind your post, the reason that most people will refer the OP to a mental health professional is because they understand they aren't qualified to give more detailed advice.

Yes, a mental health professional isn't necessarily a silver bullet, but giving poor advice when you just don't have the skills to consider the whole situation can be more harmful. It's very much the same as not offering legal advice because you should see a lawyer; inaccurate advice can lead to more problems than it can solve.

In no way do I see referring to an MHP stigmatized or washing their hands of the situation, it's just that it is literally the best advice we can give :)

However, if you feel that there are more steps that could be taken, such as referring to a manager, discussing with HR, or any number of other things, then your best option is to write an answer yourself that gives this advice! Even if it isn't the top-ranked answer, the advice is still being offered to the OP, and they can choose to accept the advice or not.

  • Sure, I think comments are well reasoned. However, in many cases there are concrete bits of advice that one can give, whether that's about how to best talk to your manager about it, how to assess revealing things to your colleague, whether it's a good idea to reveal things to your colleague etc. If the user doesn't feel confident giving that kind of advice, perhaps they're not qualified to answer?
    – dwjohnston
    Jun 25, 2019 at 3:30
  • There are plenty of things that users can give advice about, with out being a professional in that particular topic. For example "I'm going through a rough break up, how should I handle this at work" - someone can give advice without being a professional relationship counsellor. re: 'Only a professional should give advice' this counts generally for technically specific topics. ie. people shouldn't advise about changing their medication regime, (or some legal advice), they can talk generally about navigating a workplace with mental health issues.
    – dwjohnston
    Jun 25, 2019 at 3:33
  • I don't believe it's even a case of not being qualified to answer, it's more of a case of giving what they feel is the right advice - which is to speak to a mental health professional. I have seen cases where it is more appropriate to speak with a manager or HR, and in those situations, this is often the advice given. For example, in the linked posts in your question, I would have agreed that they need to seek some kind of counseling to deal with the phobia or stress. I'm not saying they shouldn't additionally speak to HR or their manager, but they shouldn't not see a professional too.
    – Jane S
    Jun 25, 2019 at 3:35
  • For example, look at the top voted answer about the triggering manager. The answer is basically 'See a MHP/You can't really do anything the way someone speaks' Now perhaps I should post my own answer here, but there's a lot more that can be said. How they can access a MHP via EAP. How to assess whether the managers tone is something that can be changed. How to assess talking to a colleague about this problem. What the pro/cons of this could be. How one might deal with it without leaving their job. How one might deal with by leaving their job.
    – dwjohnston
    Jun 25, 2019 at 3:41
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    "Now perhaps I should post my own answer here, but there's a lot more that can be said" If you believe the answers don't capture the additional steps that may be taken, then your first solution should most definitely be to write your own answer. This is true whether it's about mental health as much as any other type of question :)
    – Jane S
    Jun 25, 2019 at 3:43
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    I've amended my answer to state that if you think more can be done than just go see a MHP, then you should write your own answer giving this advice :)
    – Jane S
    Jun 25, 2019 at 3:45
  • Honestly, I think the community Wiki should have a reference to this situation. It's a legitimate answer, but it isn't enough. "See a mental health professional, but don't disclose this to your employer until you have an action plan under their supervision" or something like that. The consequences due to stigma are high, and since we all should genuinely want to help people in distress, we should try to minimize potential negative impacts for them.
    – Malisbad
    Jun 25, 2019 at 21:26

Personally, in situations like this, I use a rule of thumb: review the question and determine if we have enough information to separate the workplace problem from the asker's potential mental or medical condition(s).

If we do have the information to determine that, then we can address the workplace problem as usual, and suggest seeking professional help as well. If we don't have the information to make that separation, we can comment to get clarification.

However, it's often the case that there isn't a separate workplace issue (i.e. the workplace issue is the result of a condition, or deeply related to a condition, for instance, in a way that makes it hard to give advice specifically about the workplace). Or, it may be the case that we don't have enough information to determine that and the OP isn't able to clarify. If these cases fall outside what may be straightforward and easily addressable situations, then "see a professional" is probably the best advice we can give, and it may be prudent for it to be the only advice we give. In other words, in these situations, I would say that it is a complete answer. I think this is roughly what @JaneS is trying to say in her answer.

For the sake of clarity, as an oversimplified example, if someone states "I'm depressed and my boss is a jerk to me" it may not be clear if the boss is actually being a jerk, or the OP's medical depression is involved in, or driving, their perception. So, we can comment and say, "what makes you feel like he is a jerk?" And if the OP says "he does X and Y" then we can write an answer about that. But if we don't get a solid X and Y, then we may not be able to give specific, workplace advice, and our best answer may be "you should talk to a professional about how your depression is impacting your relationship with your boss."

In other words, we should give workplace advice where it is possible, and avoid giving mental or medical advice.

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