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Depression in the Workplace

Depression is in the workplace whether we choose to recognize that fact or not. It is expressed in negativity, in skipped days of work, in behavior that seems totally out of character and out of place.

According to the Work Place Health Promotion of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a three month period patients with depression miss an average of 4.8 workdays and suffer 11.5 days of reduced productivity. That is over 200 million lost workdays each year at a cost to employers of $17 to $44 billion. That is not a problem to be ignored.

But what, practically speaking, can employers and co-workers do to help?

Companies can offer education, support groups and other classes for people with depression or the employees who live and work with a depressed person. Amy and I were invited by Hallmark, a Kansas City corporation, to do a program for interested workers, on living with someone with depression. It was done during the lunch hour and incentives were offered for participation. From that program, requests were made for a support group which meets once a month, again during the lunch hour, and offers continuing support. It’s not difficult to offer support to your employees. An employer just has to make the decision that the education will make a difference not only in individual lives but in the company’s well being.

Next, managers and employees should be trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of depression such as tardiness, complaints of fatigue, reduction in work output or quality, safety problems or accidents, and changes in attitude. Such monitoring may lead to early identification and then referral to treatment and screening services.

Fostering good communication and a safe atmosphere to vent is an often overlooked but much needed in the work environment. Too often we fall into complacency, thinking that we are communicating but in reality we are instead approaching situations from our own agenda, not really listening, carrying pre-formed opinions. Good communication allows us to really see and hear what each person is saying and, if needed, feel their pain.

Depression in the workplace doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It can be an opportunity for co-workers to be of support in the work community and to be a kinder, more understanding person in the rest of his or her world.



5 Responses

  1. What a wonderful service and support you are providing by spreading the word about depression in the workplace. I would love to do something like that in regards to OCD. Any advice how to get started?

    • We kind of fell into this opportunity because Bern has a friend who works for a local not-for-profit that supports health and wellness in the community. You might look into NAMI chapters or Mental Health America chapters in your area to see if there are partnership opportunities. Good luck!

  2. Wow, thank you very much for sharing that. I believe as a whole the workplace should be educated in matters of the heart and mind. Thank you for bringing this up, it’s a much needed issue to be discussed. Great post!

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