World Health Day takes place on April 7th each year and is sponsored by the WHO. This year, the focus is on depression. On World Mental Health Day last year October 10th 2016, the WHO launched a one year campaign entitled Depression: Let’s Talk.
New estimates on Depression released by the WHO in February claim that the rate of depression has increased by 18% from 2005-2015, and that it is the leading cause of disability. Lack of support and fear of stigma often deter people from seeking potentially life-saving treatment.
Working with depression is very difficult, as it prevents people from working to their full ability or gaining any job satisfaction. It can cause rifts within the workplace, when colleagues don’t realise that there is a problem. Depression may manifest itself in poor performance, which can create difficulty in group work environments, creating a cycle of unhappiness. We have gathered a list of some signs you may notice in a colleague who could be quietly suffering from depression. If you yourself are experiencing any of the below, it is worth talking to someone about how you feel and possibly looking for some further assistance.
- Timekeeping and Organisation: A common sign of depression can be a change in punctuality, or constant rushing due to tiredness. This can be noticed as being late for work, or failing to meet deadlines which they normally have no problem keeping. Is your colleague forgetting about some deadlines entirely? Disorganisation is a high indicator that a person is feeling stressed.
- Appetite: When someone is depressed or stressed, their appetite can often change. They could begin to eat significantly less or more, leading to changes in weight and/or energy. If a colleague is always very organised with their meals at work and has suddenly fallen into a disarray, this could be a sign of stress. Excessive snacking or lack of taking breaks to eat can be other indicators.
- Concentration: Any mental health problem can make it very hard to concentrate, and the workplace is be very demanding on a person’s mental resources. Even the simplest of daily tasks can be affected. If you notice that a colleague is suddenly finding it difficult to complete normal daily duties, it may be worth asking them if they are feeling ok, or if they need some help with their workload.
- Mood: The workplace can be a stressful environment, however for many it is also a main social outlet. If someone seems to be avoiding the workplace banter or getting unreasonably moody with their colleagues, this could be a sign of a more deeply rooted issue. Does the person seem lethargic at work? Are they avoiding group situations?
- Not caring. . . . or caring too much: If someone is depressed, their moods may be a little uncontrollable, and their reactions to some situations can be unpredictable and not the usual. Motivation, or lack of, can be affected. They can experience feelings of being overwhelmed and helpless, or act nonchalant and unresponsive. They may even experience a mixture of the two. Either of these states can result in reckless behaviour in order to cope or get a quick fix of satisfaction. If an error at work is made as a result, this could be a perfect opportunity to approach the issue.
- Physical symptoms: When a person is mentally unwell, it has a direct impact on their physical health. Worrying can lead to a lack of sleep, which in itself has an array of effects on the body. Niggling pains, stomach problems, backaches and headaches are ways in which a mental health issue can physically manifest itself. If a co-worker has suddenly started to complain about any of these, it is worth asking them if they are ok or need help with anything. Take note of extra sick days being taken, or the employee not taking sick days even though they are unwell in order to manage their workload.
If you notice that a colleague may be suffering from depression based on any of the above points, you can start by asking if everything is ok. If the person insists that they are fine, or you are not in a position to approach this person, you can take a more indirect approach by leaving some mental health information in the canteen area or talking to HR or your boss about setting up a mental health promotion programme in the office. Workplaces which have a proactive approach to health and wellbeing can help employees get over problems like depression more quickly. Employers who are open and approachable will find their employees struggle less with acknowledging the problem and seeking help.
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