Depression at Work

Depression at work is becoming an epidemic around the world.

IT’s interesting that while people who haven’t got jobs or have been recently laid off tend to despair, actually having a job doesn’t ensure happiness.

A global study reported in The Wall Street Journal claims that almost a quarter of the global workforce is depressed. Apparently, 92 per cent of people surveyed linked the state of their mental health to job performance and only 12 per cent claimed to be optimistic on the work front. The respondents came from a variety of industries, but mainly in the financial and professional areas.

The report mirrors the results of a study by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found 20 per cent of the workforce suffers from some mental disorder, with depression and substance abuse being the most common. In Australia, the  Black Dog Institute has published a book, Tackling Depression at Work, to help employees and managers find ways of dealing with a growing problem that drains the life- force out of people and sucks the marrow out of the economy.

Sick leave — including for stress- related issues — is so chronic that Flight Centre a few years ago started putting into place ‘‘wellness’’ programs to ensure its employees maintained a good level of wellbeing and mental health.

‘‘If staff are happier and healthier, they’ll be more productive and there will be less absenteeism or resigning,’’ a Flight Centre global human resources executive told me after putting selected staff members through a work-life balance program. ‘‘Sick days dropped by 25 per cent, and staff turnover was down dramatically, saving the company in excess of $250,000 that year,’’ he said, explaining that employee care was the only way forward. In the US, lost productivity due to mental health issues costs over $1 billion annually.

The types of things that make people feel depressed include lack of control, with many workers feeling insecure in view of another possible economic crisis. Others feel unacknowledged for their efforts and have negative relationships with bosses.

Many workers feel they are ageing and life is passing them by. Then there are those who become depressed being under artificial lights all day, in poorly ventilated spaces, or without a sense of corporate community. This is where enlightened companies such as Flight Centre, IBM, Nestle and other corporations that foster happiness via work-life balance programs, get the thumbs-up.

The struggling global economy is only one reason for depression at work. But with tough times again looming, it won’t help businesses if they don’t have a healthy workforce on their side.

Are you happy at work? Have you ever felt depressed?

STORY The Australian

Please comment below


, , , , ,

9 Responses to Depression at Work

  1. kat 16 December 2011 at 10:50 am #

    Even though it’s a nice idea I cant justify going back to uni I already have a 44,000 hecs debt from trying that course of action. Although it was enjoyable, studying at uni did not open the way to a dream job. Besides that though, I would still need to work to support myself and I certainly havent the energy to come home from work and hit the books. I think your answer is simplistic but I’m glad it worked for you.

  2. Ruth Ostrow 15 December 2011 at 8:29 pm #

    Yes there is, and you have to find it. For me its going back to uni and finding my passion. Funny how working but finding a new passion has made me LESS tired.

  3. kat 15 December 2011 at 7:26 pm #

    I feel like my life is only about work, I have nothing else happening because I am too damn tired after a day at the office to be involved in other activities and the weekends seem to be all about cleaning and preparing for the next work week.

    I feel quite trapped, I have to work to pay my rent and put food on the table yet I feel like life is just passing me by. Surely there is more to life than this.

  4. Lucy 10 December 2011 at 6:24 pm #

    Judith, this is a dreadful experience for you. My sister is a psychologist and was paid to make people redundant and then counsel them!! It’s just awful, but obviously the world functions like this now. You’ve done a great job, yes, but wouldn’t that also be because of your sense of yourself and the pride you take in your work and responsibility? It reflects very positively on you – despite what your employer may nor may no longer value. I suspect you will go on to a further work situation where you will give it your all, and this is commendable. We do things because we have pride and want to hold our heads up and gain the respect which comes with all of that. I don’t think we can look to an employer to feel the same way about it – that’s why we have friends!! Good luck in your future endeavours.

  5. Judith 10 December 2011 at 3:55 pm #

    Some six weeeks ago the large company I work for announced that it had ‘sold’ the product that my department manages, to an outside insurance company. I had to make my 12 staff redundant and then at the end of that gruelling day, sit there while HR then made me redundant. The most horrific day of my life – after 24 years as a productive employee and manager. The reason for losing our jobs is that our product is very successful, due to the efforts of myself and my staff, and it has been sold for a good price to an outside company in another state. I have never felt so gutted – it is worse than when my marriage ended for at least I then had my children to love and care for. I am so depressed I do not know where to turn – I cry constantly at work – I cannot sleep. And the worst part has just started – we now have to train the people in the other state on how to do our roles. It seems obscene, but it’s just ‘big business’. It’s a very poor reward for having been great employees. Other employees shun my staff now – it’s too uncomfortable to talk to the ‘losers’. It is very very difficult to cope with.

  6. Lucy 4 December 2011 at 8:54 pm #

    I was in the teaching profession too, and can identify with Dizla. I got a permanent job almost straight from university because I decided to teach Drama and there were few teachers in this area. I hated the subject and soon didn’t have to teach it any more because I offered to teach the new syllabus and a 3 unit course – something my colleagues were reluctant to do. There is a lot of depression in teaching because the system fails to protect teachers from student behaviour – there are no consequences for students, no matter what platitudes spew forth from Principals’ mouths. They are always watching their own backs and promotional opportunities and most couldn’t care a damn about the staff. They see it is a valuable career move to ‘mentor’ and provide ‘welfare’ for students instead of discipline and teacher support. I retired early because I was so disgusted by the culture in the state school system and the stress wasn’t worth it!! Not at all. Most of my friends and colleagues felt the same.

  7. Ruth Ostrow 4 December 2011 at 5:58 pm #

    Yes the misunderstanding is often horrific. Courses for employers should be mandatory.

  8. Ex-Teacher 3 December 2011 at 5:11 pm #

    A couple of years ago, I confided in my boss that I was suffering from depression, which was largely due to the workplace culture that existed. My boss, the principal of a school, responded by getting up on a school assembly and preaching that those people in the school who were depressed were depressed because they chose to be. I resigned nearly immediately. I’d just love to forward a copy of ‘Tackling Depression at Work’ to this ignoramus who is most likely still brainwashing the minds of impressionable students.

  9. Dizla 3 December 2011 at 11:25 am #

    The casualisation of the workforce has a lot to answer for. I am fortunate enough to have a well paid permanent job on the NNSW coast. Mind you I did the hard yards in the bush first. I have truly earnt this job. The deep resentment, envy,even hatred directed towards me from long term casuals is depressing and debilitating. I am not responsible for their job insecurity Most of them want what I have without ever having to put in the hard yards first.

Leave a Reply