Depression in the workplace: What you can do

A study released this week reveals that over one-fifth of employees are struggling with depression. So what can you do to keep yourself and your co-workers healthy and happy?

Stressed out at work

A rough time for many

We all experience days when we feel a little down. But when that negative feeling goes on for weeks, gets worse or begins to interfere with daily tasks, it may be depression rather than the blues. A new Ipsos Reid poll reveals that 22 per cent of employees reported they were currently suffering from depression, and another 16 per cent stated they had experienced it previously.

Recognizing the signs

According to The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), the signs of depression can be quite vast, as everyone experiences the illness differently. In many cases, the individual may seem irritable, withdrawn and tired. This can quickly affect his or her work performance. A sufferer may be less enthusiastic, unable to concentrate and show an increase in errors. Ultimately this can lead to the individual being less productive and more likely to call in sick or be late.

How to help a co-worker

The longer depression goes untreated, the more withdrawn and isolated the sufferer can become CMHA explains that recognition and assistance can make a difference in 80 per cent of the people suffering from depression. Although you can’t “make” a person’s depression go away, you can be a source of support that will help him or her get help.

Continue to make your colleague aware of his or her value in the workplace, and offer genuine compliments whenever possible. If you feel the trust between the two of you is great enough, encourage your co-worker to seek the advice of a health care provider who can assist him or her in finding the best course of action to take.

Getting help

The study wasn’t all bad news, fortunately. It also revealed that the number of managers who have received training in how to intervene and assist emotionally distressed employees has gone up from one-fifth in 2007 to one-third in the most recent findings. This certainly is a step in the right direction, but undeniably there still needs to be more awarness and resources made available for everyone to succeed. A free interactive online program called Managing Mental Health Matters has been created to assist those managers who feel they require better training. Another program, titled Working Through It, is designed to help employees suffering from a mental health issue determine what their best course of action should be. This is an incredible resource for any employee who is experiencing depression and doesn’t know what to do.

As with virtually all illnesses, prevention and early detection are key. So the best thing you can do for yourself and your colleagues is to familiarize yourself with the above resources and encourage others to do so as well. And if you’re concerned that you or someone else in your workplace may be suffering, seek professional assistance as soon as possible.

More on depression

Helping a friend with depression
Are you depressed?
Pain and depression: What you should know

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