Depression in the Workplace

Depression in the Workplace

Monday, 22nd August 2016

Depression is a very common condition which affects more than 450,000 people in Ireland (one in ten) at any one time. Any of us, irrespective of age, gender or background, can be affected at some point in our life.

The Causes of depression:

Depression can be preceded by a setback in life, such as bereavement, relationship or financial difficulties, problems at work/school, bullying, unemployment or medical illness. An inherited tendency towards depression can also be factor. In the case of bipolar disorder (a particular type of mood disorder involving highs and lows of mood, known as elations and depressions respectively) genetic factors can be important.

An individual doesn’t have to FEEL depressed to actually BE depressed. If any five or more of the below symptoms are present for more than two weeks, with little or no respite, you are advised to seek professional medical advice from a GP or other suitably qualified health care professional.

Symptoms of Depression:

Feeling – depressed, sad, anxious or bored

Energy – tired, fatigued, everything an effort

Sleep – waking during the night/too early in the morning, oversleeping/trouble getting to sleep

Thinking – slow thinking, poor concentration, forgetful or indecisive

Interest – loss of interest in food, work etc

Value – reduced sense of self-worth/low self esteem

Aches – headaches, chest or other pains without a physical basis

Life – thinking of death or suicide

The facts:

Depression is a treatable condition.
Depression is often described as an overwhelming feeling which dulls thinking, impairs concentration, saps energy, decreases interest in food, sex, work and daily events, and also disrupts sleep.
It affects 1 in 3 of us at some point in our lives.
It is estimated that over 400,000 people in Ireland experience depression at any one time.
If left untreated depression can prove fatal, resulting in the tragedy of suicide.

How to help a colleague or employee:

Get information about depression, so that you have some idea of what the individual is experiencing and how it affects them.
Remember that depression is a real illness with symptoms affecting concentration, energy, motivation and self-esteem.
Support and reassure the person unconditionally.
Listen to them in a non-judgemental way – their experience is real for them.
If the person is behaving differently remember this is a result of the illness. It is no-one’s ‘fault’ so do not apportion blame.
If a colleague confides in you, respect their privacy.
Take references to suicide seriously.
Where there is absenteeism, reduced productivity, errors and poor concentration, consider whether depression may be the cause.
Offer practical help where you can e.g. encourage the person to eat well and suggest a brisk walk at lunchtime to ensure fresh air and exercise.
Check in with them regularly so that you will know if they are having specific difficulties.
Depression can be isolating, so be sure to include the individual in workplace chat and invite them to join you for lunch etc. Remember that alcohol can have a negative impact on someone with depression, so while you should invite them to social events, do not pressure them to drink alcohol.
Where someone has been absent as a result of illness, welcome them back to work.
Negativity and hopelessness can be a part of depression, so encourage the person to be hopeful of recovery. Encourage them to seek support from Aware and from friends and family.
Even where someone realises they have depression, the negative thinking associated with the condition may prevent them getting help.
Above all, remember that depression can affect any one of us at any time in our lives.

How to recognise depression in the workplace:

Reduced productivity
Uncharacteristic behaviour e.g. accidents
Impaired judgement, resulting in bad decisions or indecision
Low morale
Lack of co-operation
Excessive tiredness
Complaints of physical aches or pains
In situations where a person is elated or manic as a result of bipolar disorder, they may be disruptive, interfering or domineering

Stamping out stigma in the workplace:

Stigma in the workplace, whether real or perceived, means that many workers will avoid telling colleagues about their illness for fear of being labelled or discriminated against.

Aware offers talks and seminars on depression to companies nationwide. This creates awareness of the illness, help that is available, and also encourages workers to accept that depression is something which we are all at risk of.

(The above Information is from

For any support or advice about depression contact the Aware loCall Helpline (loCall 1890 303 302)