Depression Awareness

Depression is one of the most common mental health issue diagnoses amongst workers, and also one of the top reasons for calling our services. However, it is still commonly misunderstood, and many do not know how to look out for symptoms of it or how to help someone with this mental illness.

An overview of depression

Depression is not simply feeling unhappy or fed up for a few days - a basic definition would be that it is “feeling down persistently for weeks or months”. At its mildest, it makes everything more challenging to do and seem less worthwhile. In its most severe form, it can make a person feel suicidal, or give up the will to live. As well as mild, moderate and severe depression, there are specific types, including Seasonal Affective Disorder and Dysthymia (chronic depression). Depression and anxiety can often be experienced together, and depression can also be a symptom of other mental health problems, such as bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder. People with severe depression can also experience some psychotic symptoms, for example delusions and hallucinations. Depression can affect anyone, regardless of their gender or age. The causes of depression vary - factors can include life events, child experiences, genetics, physical conditions, medication, stress and lack of sleep. Pressures in work life can also cause and or make this mental illness worse, for instance the fear of redundancy, working long hours, dealing with difficult people or situations, and unreasonable targets.

Symptoms of depression in employees

• Increased amount of sick or absent days • Loss of motivation or enthusiasm • Excessive forgetfulness • Fatigue, tiredness and excessive yawning • Withdrawal from colleagues and work social events • Overeating or under eating • Increased smoking or drinking alcohol

How to talk to an employee about depression

Be understanding. If you've never had depression, it may not be the easiest topic to understand or talk about. Do not blame the employee in any way, or expect them to just “pull themselves together”. Respect their confidentiality. It is important to keep any suspicions or knowledge you have about an employee’s mental health confidential, and this includes those with depression. Talking to other colleagues would not only make the employee lose trust in you, but it can also negatively impact their mental health. If you need someone to talk to about your concerns, speak to the HR department. Respond flexibly. After an employee’s depression has been identified, there may be flexibility required to help and support them. For example a change of workspace, a change to start/finish times or adjusting their responsibilities. Encourage them to talk. Whether you suspect an employee has depression or they have confided in you, encourage them to talk about it. This will lead to an understanding between you and the employee, as well as help with figuring out the steps to take to help and support them. Encourage them to seek help. Although you cannot force the employee to seek help, you can reassure them that it is okay to ask for help. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to supporting an employee with depression, but these recommendations should help. If any of your employees need someone to talk to, they can always contact Health Assured on our 24/7 helpline number.

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