Depression in the Workplace: What We Can Do

Depression in the Workplace: What We Can Do

By Bob VandePol, MSW
Dejected business man sitting at desk holding up sign for helpAlthough you might not know it, depression touches everyone in the workplace. Affecting nearly one in ten adults each year, depression is one of the top reasons for lost productivity, sick days taken and disability leave. Unaddressed depression in the workplace can contribute to lower profits and morale as well as increased mistakes and accidents.

Ignoring depression is no longer an option. Rather than be bystanders, everyone in the workplace can help to address this issue.

Depression is a serious medical illness of the brain that affects a person’s mood, concentration, activity level, interests, appetite, social behavior and physical health. Although depression is treatable, oftentimes it is a lifelong condition with periods of wellness alternating with depressive recurrences.

By understanding the warning signs, we can help employees and coworkers seek treatment sooner, so that they need not suffer needlessly.

Depression Symptoms

You may be depressed if you have at least five of these symptoms occurring nearly every day for at least two weeks:

  • Feeling sad or empty
  • Having little interest or pleasure in doing things
  • Experiencing a change in appetite with weight loss or weight gain
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep, or sleeping too much
  • Being tired, fatigued and having no energy
  • Feeling worthless or guilty that you have let yourself or your family down
  • Moving slowly or the opposite – being overly fidgety and restless
  • Having difficulty thinking or concentrating on things such as reading the newspaper or watching TV
  • Letting personal hygiene go – not bathing or not dressing well
  • Recurring thoughts of hurting yourself

Depression Symptoms You May Notice in the Workplace

  • Unfinished projects
  • Increased errors
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Forgetfulness
  • Indecisive
  • Missing work
  • Tired all the time
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Loss of interest in work or socializing with colleagues
  • Irritable or emotional outbursts
  • Posing safety risks, accidents
  • Increased alcohol and/or drug use

Why a Person Might Not Seek Help

Most depressed people want help, but there may be a barrier. Many are unaware they have depression, they just know they feel sick, tired and not themselves. Others may not know how to ask for help or are too fatigued to be proactive. Some may fear losing their job or career opportunities, cost or have confidentiality concerns.

What You Can Do To Help

  • Talk to the person in private about what you’ve noticed.
  • Encourage them to use your company’s confidential EAP (Employee Assistance Program) which is usually free, or make an appointment with their primary care doctor or a trained behavioral health professional.
  • Let them know depression is a very treatable illness, not a failing on their part.
  • If concerned about discrimination or privacy, let them know depression is covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • Support their treatment plan.
  • Reassure them they will feel better.
  • Be a good listener.
  • Learn more about depression and its symptoms.

What Your Organization Can Do

If you’re in leadership or management, there’s much you can do to support your employees with depression.

  1. Empower your staff so they can understand and recognize depression by providing a brochure, links on your company intranet and/or staff training.
    • We’ve provided links below under Learn More about Depression.
    • Our magazine “Depression Insights” is available online, as a pdf file and in print.
  2. Encourage all employees to practice good self-care and manage their stress!
  3. Promote National Depression Screening Day held each October.
  4. Provide an Employee Assistance Program if you don’t already have one. If you do, promote this benefit regularly.

How Pine Rest Can Help

Pine Rest provides treatment for depression and other mood disorders at all levels of care. Our clinicians are trained to provide many different psychotherapy treatments including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT). We also offer specialty neuromodulation techniques that use electrical or magnetic currents to stimulate or alter brain activity.

Inpatient Hospitalization. Our Contact Center is staffed 24/7 with licensed clinicians. If you or someone in crisis, please call 616.455.9200 or 800.678.5500. TTY line available at 616.281.6446.

Counseling/Outpatient Services. To schedule a new outpatient appointment, call 866.852.4001.

Teletherapy. Online video service similar to Skype or Facetime.

Intensive Day Program (Partial Hospitalization).

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Therapy.

Employee Assistance Program.

Learn More About Depression

For more information about depression, visit these resources:

Pine Rest: Depression and Mood Disorders

American Psychiatric Association

Anxiety and Depression Association of American

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

Bob VandePol, MSW serves as Executive Director the Pine Rest Employee and Church Assistance Programs which provides Critical Incident Response services to business, organizations, schools and universities as well as faith communities. Active as a keynote speaker, Mr. VandePol has published and been quoted in business and clinical journals, co-authored book chapters addressing workplace response to tragedy and has been featured as subject matter expert in numerous video training series.

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