Three tips on combatting depression at work

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You care about your staff, but how do you spot and deal with depression at work?

Unlike other physical illnesses, people battle on and come into work when they are experiencing mental health problems in a way they wouldn’t if they had a stomach bug. With one in four people experiencing some kind of mental health issue in their lives, you will have people working with you who are experiencing this kind of battle every day. Supporting people with depression is not only about being a good responsible leader, productivity, output and team morale can all be severely affected by someone in your team experiencing this issue.

You need to know how to spot a potential mental health issue, to be able signpost people for help and create healthy working environment that is as free as possible from negative behaviours like bullying, aggressive and passive aggressive behaviour.

Depression – know the signs

The key to spotting potential depression is to look for changes in their state management or behaviour for a period of time. The clinical timeframe we use is around three weeks. Look out for:

  • Difficulties in maintaining an appropriate working state, this is not necessarily just tears or low moods but also increased expressions of anger and irritation.
  • Increased difficulties in general working relationships. This is not about a specific relationship but they have general difficulties being assertive, communicating clearly and may avoid meetings
  • Increased levels of procrastination
  • General apathy and low motivation

Look for changes in their normal behaviour, if someone has generally low motivation and apathy, they are probably in the wrong job.

Signposting for support

Approach the situation sensitively and privately, don’t suggest you think they are depressed. The best way is to describe what you have observed and ask for their side of things. Example ‘I’ve noticed that over the past month you seem less enthusiastic about your work than normal and that you’ve missed a few deadlines. This is not like you, what’s your take on it?’

Make it generally clear you are available for people to approach you if they are experiencing problems.

Talk about emotional and mental health in a non judgemental way and if you have positive experiences share them, people will instinctively know you are safe to approach.

Know what your organisation has to offer, if you have private healthcare there will usually be access to therapists via this route. People are often worried about confidentiality but these services are very confidential and shouldn’t show on people’s employment record, check with HR though so that if someone asks you have an answer for them.

If you have no support organisationally or the person is unwilling to use it, direct them their GP. Like any other illness the GP is the first point of call and will be able to advise on medication and NHS counselling services.

Show empathy and also set clear boundaries, if you are very empathetic people may see you as someone they can talk to, and that is not your role. A key step for people getting better is for them to seek the right help, so you must gently continue to guide them in the direction of expert help not try to be their counsellor.

Creating a healthy working environment

Where there are negative behaviours in the workplace or a continually stressful environment, mental health problems spread as everyone tries to ‘cope’ with the unsafe situation. Their brains’ are constantly on alert for threats, even if they are unaware of it. Make sure you have the right training, development and skills to deal with difficult situations so that your team know you have it covered, and that will enable them to thrive.

About Karen & John

Karen Meager and John McLachlan are the Co-Founders of Monkey Puzzle Training and two of only a handful of NLP Master Trainers in the UK.

Karen is a UKCP registered Psychotherapist (DipNLPt), an INLPTA certified NLP Master Trainer and a Principal Practitioner Member of the Association for Business Psychology. She is an NLPtCA recognised Supervisor and runs a supervision practice for Coaches and Therapists of any modality. She also has training in other psychological models, human development and social psychology which she uses in her training and coaching.  John is an INLPTA certified NLP Master Trainer, a Master Practitioner of NLP, a Principal Practitioner Member of the Association for Business Psychology, a Therapist and a Clinical Hypnotherapist.

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