Ask the Expert
Depression in the Workplace
By Andrea Stidsen, LICSW, CEAP, Director, Partners Employee Assistance Program
Depression is a treatable illness that affects a person’s thinking, behavior, mood and physical well-being. Many depressed individuals do not realize they are ill and minimize the impact on themselves or others. Yet, more than 80% of depressed workers can be successfully treated with medication and/or short-term therapy.
Q What is the impact of depression on the workplace?
A Depression has a huge effect on the workplace:
One study in the U.S. found that over a 12-month period, at least 2.9 million working-age individuals were depressed, with nearly 50 percent in the U.S. labor force. (Psychiatric Services 55:29-34, January 2004.)
The cost to U.S. workplaces is estimated to be $44 billion annually in lost productivity. (JAMA, June 18, 2003 - Vol. 289 No. 23 pp 3135-3144.)
- Depression is among the top three behavioral health problems reported by employees, with 20% of the workforce experiencing mild to major depression annually. (Tanouye, Elyse. “Mental Illness: A Rising Workplace Cost;” Wall Street Journal, June 13, 2001, p. B1.)
Q What are some indicators of a depressed employee?
A Employees who are depressed may display one or more of the following symptoms at work:
- Tearfulness, moodiness;
- Decreased concentration, confusion;
- Lack of motivation;
- Irritability, hostility or lack of cooperation;
- Withdrawal from others;
- Feelings of hopelessness;
- Loss of self-confidence;
- Slower speech, frequent complaints of fatigue.
Q How can depression affect work performance?
A Depression may cause:
- Tardiness or absenteeism;
- Difficulty making decisions; decreased job productivity; lack of follow-through;
- Confusion; difficulty learning new tasks;
- Slower speech; complaints of fatigue;
- Accidents; workplace injuries;
- Irregular, inconsistent work patterns;
- Poor interpersonal relationships.
Q How can we help depressed employees at work?
A Many employees are more reluctant to come forward with a mental health illness than with a physical illness. Supervisors and Managers can help by:
- Learning the signs of depression;
- Recognizing when work performance issues may be related to depression or another mental health problem;
- Supporting employees who may need to take a short leave or adjust their schedules to receive treatment.
- Suggesting the employees contact the EAP for assessment and referral to appropriate treatment. For confidential help, employees can call 1-866-724-4EAP.
- Encouraging employees to take advantage of the confidential, free online mental health self-assessment tool at www.eap.partners.org.
For more information or to discuss employee or workplace concerns please contact Partners Employee Assistance Program at 1-866-724-4EAP.
In case of emergency, please call 911 or your local hospital emergency service.
This content was last modified on: 08/27/2008