There’s a serious side to the silly season, and every employer needs to be aware of the problems that depression can bring to staff. Here are some tips to help cope.
The end of the year is always a time most people look forward to – Christmas with family, time off work and a chance to get away for a holiday. It should be a time when the pressure is off and we can relax.
But sadly this is not always the case for everyone, and in fact the Christmas-new year period can be a very sad time for some and a time when people feel depressed.
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Why? Because it can be a time when people remember a loved one no longer with them, it can be a reminder that this should be fun but it is not. We are sold a “happy” time but how do you feel happy when your life feels miserable? Maybe business this year has been bad. Or maybe one of your family or friends is depressed. Sometimes there are associated problems – anxiety and substance abuse.
About depression and its impact at work
Depression is a big issue and we need to understand its impact on work.
- One in five people will suffer from depression at some stage in their lives.
- People suffering from depression may take three or four days off work per month.
- It can affect people’s work performance, and there’s a greater chance of industrial accidents (safety issue).
What is depression?
Depression is sometimes described by the following symptoms. If you experience these three symptoms for more than two weeks:
- Feeling unhappy and miserable and crying regularly.
- Complaining to others about feeling sad or empty.
- Lost a sense of interest and enjoyment in your life.
PLUS if you have any four of the following six:
- Appetite or weight changes.
- Restlessness or agitated.
- Tired all the time and lack of energy.
- Difficulty thinking, concentrating and decision making.
- Feeling worthless and guilty.
- Feeling like life isn’t worth living.
What causes depression?
Depression and its causes are complex. Women generally suffer more and there is a suggestion of genetic links. It is more common in teenagers, elderly people and menopausal women and is related to certain medical conditions. Certain personality types are more likely to be depressed – people who worry, sensitive to criticism, self critical. Sometimes a stressful incident will trigger depression, and sometimes there are no obvious reasons at all.
What can you do?
The best thing to do is seek professional help – and help may be simple and effective especially in mild conditions. Ask for specific advice. Sometimes depression can be treated without drugs, for others specific drugs can assist.
Things you can do yourself – increase your activities and exercise, as this can be helpful. Reducing drug and alcohol intake, and getting enough sleep can also be helpful. Try and minimise stress, read some books and spend time with friends.
What if someone close to you is depressed?
A little time off work can help, but it is not always helpful for a manager to give someone with depression time off work – as often staying at work can give purpose and bring a person back out of depression. That’s why the holiday period can be so challenging.
Talk to them. It can really help. Point out that you have noticed they seem to be unhappy, quiet or withdrawn. Assist people in finding information and be prepared to negotiate a lighter workload.
Don’t ever give up on someone with depression.
Make sure they seek professional help. Be caring and sensitive. It is a time when friends and colleagues can make a real difference.
By Eve Ash, psychologist and managing director, Seven Dimensions, and co-producer with Peter Quarry of the Ash.Quarry production – Understanding and Dealing with Depression (part of the Take Away Training series) www.7dimensions.com.au
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