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Dec 2016

The Winter Blues: Depression, stress, and anxiety in the workplace


depressed business woman sitting at desk

Oftentimes, safety programs focus on mitigating the risks of physical hazards; such as falling, breathing toxic fumes, or being caught in machinery. Yet, mental health issues (such as depression) affect millions of workers across the state. Sure, depression and other mental health issues like it may be straddling the border between personal problems and workplace problems. Yet, it is time to overcome the stigma that surrounds mental illness and work towards a future that incorporates employee wellness on every level; including mental health.  

Depression, Stress, and Anxiety in the workplace

A survey by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America tells the truth about depression: its common in the workplace and it effects the lives of employees across the nation. The survey found that over 70% of those who struggle with stress, anxiety, and depression say it impacts their life on at least a moderate level. Most often, those who struggle with depression, anxiety, and stress levels most often feel its effects on their workplace performance, relationships with their coworkers, and their relationships with their superiors.

Depression, often spurred by high stress levels and anxiety, is one of the costliest illnesses in America. In fact, according to Mental Health of America, depression can be as costly as heart disease. Why is depression so costly? Well, one of the most common ways to deal with depression, high stress, and anxiety is to sleep more and stay in. Absenteeism and loss of productivity costs are the effects felt by companies that may have issues with depression in their workforce.

There is more than one type of depression. The first, Major Depressive Disorder, usually exhibits the most severe symptoms. However, these episodes are usually of a shorter duration, and may only occur once in an individual’s lifetime. The second, and perhaps more debilitating form of depression, is called Dysthymia. The symptoms are dysthymia are similar to those of Major Depressive Disorder, but they are not as severe. Unlike Major Depressive Disorder, however, Dysthymia can be relatively chronic; persistent symptoms over the course of at least a few years. Finally, Minor Depression is the third form of depression. Though the symptoms of Minor Depression are less severe than Major Depressive Disorder and Dysthymia, it can still be a debilitating illness.

Signs and Symptoms of Depression

Depression, oftentimes, goes hand in hand with stress and anxiety. Large developments in one’s life – such as a move, divorce, or job-loss- can trigger depression. If left untreated, depression can fester and worsen, and can lead to suicide. It is important to familiarize oneself with the symptoms of depression. Not only so you can monitor your own feelings, but so you can lookout for others in your work environment.

The symptoms of depression may vary depending on the individual. Common signs that someone is experiencing a depressive episode are:

  1. A relentless feeling of sadness, emptiness, anxiousness, or hopelessness,
  2. Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed, including sex.
  3. Disrupted sleep habits- either sleeping too much or too little.
  4. Loss of appetite and weight loss.

There are many symptoms of depression, and the ones listed above are only a few of the most common. It is crucial to be aware of your own feelings, as well as those of coworkers in order to detect the symptoms of depression.

Combating Depression

Certainly, depression is a personal issue that needs to be treated on a personal level. However, employers can play a critical role in the process of combating mental illnesses like depression. So, do not stand idly by, but take steps to improve the health and safety of workers.

Every fight against mental illness needs to begin with raising awareness. Employers should address the prevalence of depression head-on. Consider holding a seminar, or some sort of workforce meeting that highlights the causes and effects of depression, as well as treatment options. Employees who struggle with depression may not feel driven enough to seek treatment, that is why it is imperative that Employers raise awareness for the illness and promote the benefits of treatment.

Employers can help alleviate stress and anxiety- and thus help combat depression- by implementing an employee wellness program. Employee wellness programs seek to improve workforce health through exercise, stress relief, and proper nutrition. Employers can educate the workforce on the importance of proper nutrition, getting enough sleep, and daily exercise.

Overall, employers can play a role of support for employees struggling with mental illness. The stigma surrounding depression can deter those experiencing its detrimental effects from seeking help. Employers should acknowledge the severity of the depression epidemic, and actively promote the importance of mental health among the workforce.

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