Depression is a worldwide epidemic. The World Health Organization ranked depression as the fourth most common disease in 1990 and is expected to be the second most common by 2020.
It’s no wonder that the effects of depression are being felt in the workplace, which have tremendous implications when it comes to productivity, medical expenses and loss of days on the job. This presents a big challenge for business owners and mangers. As with anything else, the more you know about a subject the better prepared you are to handle it. So let’s first consider a few key points concerning depression.
• There are 10 times more major cases of depression in people born after 1945 than in those born before. Because of this, those born before ’45 can have a hard time understanding what depression is and have trouble recognizing it as a real medical illness.
• Depression hinders a person’s ability to handle everyday problems. When you are stressed, your brain works differently. You are more likely to resort to “all or nothing” thinking, causing difficulties in solving problems, resulting decreased productivity.
• The average depression, if left untreated, will lift after eight months. Can your company afford to wait that long?
There are also some outward signs we could be on the lookout for. Here are just a few:
Personality Changes. These can be dramatic changes that are very apparent. People will often act in very uncharacteristic ways.
Attitude. Depression can cause a pessimistic or apathetic attitude.
Mood. A person may seem sad or disinterested in general activities.
Absenteeism. Frequently missing work can be a sign of depression.
Energy. Complaining about being chronically tired could be a sign.
It should be stated that only a doctor can correctly diagnose depression, and we are not doctors. With that in mind, what should we do if we notice some of the above-mentioned signs in an employee?
How you approach the employee is critical. Whoever is going to speak with them must do so with a gentle and caring attitude choosing words carefully. Pointing out that everyone has noticed changes will probably make them feel worse and saying, “I know how you feel,” is just lying. Perhaps you could say you have noticed a change and then be an empathetic listener. They may feel relieved that you have brought the subject up and want to talk about it. It is also possible that they may feel it is too personal to share. No one wants to be known as the “crazy person” or to have people ask him or her how their visit to the “shrink” was. We are living in the 21st century and we now know that depression is a medical condition. With this in mind, a visit to the doctor for evaluation should be encouraged as soon as possible.
It would be helpful if you could rearrange your employee’s work schedule to accommodate doctor appointments. Also, is it possible to assign a less stressful job during the really tough times? They may also need some time off to adjust to new medications. These things may be easier said than done if your company is small. Many insurance companies hardly pay for good mental health services, never mind paying for an employee to stay home and get better. Considering these things, try to do whatever you can to help your employee.