How to Spot Signs of Depression in Employees and Colleagues

 17 Feb 2021

Depression is the most common mental health problem worldwide, a treatable illness that causes people to experience depressed mood, low self-worth, loss of interest or pleasure, and, at its most severe, thoughts of suicide.

In any given week, 1 in 6 people in England reports experiencing a mental health problem such as depression and anxiety. Each year 70 million work days are lost due to mental illness in the UK.

Unlike physical ailments, spotting the signs of someone suffering from depression isn't always easy. It is not a one-size-fits-all disorder, and not everybody with depression exhibits the same symptoms or have them to the same degree.

Unless you are a trained mental health expert, you cannot diagnose depression in someone. However, if a colleague or employee shows some of the following symptoms, it could signal that they are suffering from depression.

Physical Signs of Depression

  • Lack of energy and feeling tired all the time.
  • Restlessness and irritability.
  • Reduced appetite and/or weight loss.
  • Frequent fatigue.
  • Signs of substance abuse.
  • Lack of cooperation.
  • Decreased productivity.
  • Noticeable weight loss or gain.

Emotional Signs of Depression

  • Feeling sad and in low spirits most of the time. Crying a lot.
  • Low morale.
  • Failure to concentrate on tasks or make decisions.
  • Emotional outbursts. This can include curt or aggressive emails.
  • Out of character behaviours.

Signs of Depression in the Remote Workplace

To say that the pandemic has been a challenge for businesses and their employees is an understatement. While many companies are concerned about the financial impact, it's impossible to overstate the emotional effects as many people face unexpected challenges to their mental wellbeing. In a virtual work environment spotting the warning signs of colleagues in need can be extra difficult. Among the things to look out for are:

  • Changes in their appearance – looking untidy or dishevelled during video calls.
  • Changes in performance – are they consistently showing up late for meetings or missing them? Depression can cause changes that impact time management and memory.
  • Overproductivity – working long and unusual hours can be a sign of anxiety, stress and depression as people overwork to avoid their feelings.
  • Changes in communication patterns – where they were once active, there's now radio silence or long delays. Perhaps you haven't heard from them for several days without any warning of their absence.

How to Help

If you have noticed a few of these symptoms in one of your colleagues or employees and they have persisted for more than a week, depression may be to blame. Therefore, ask them if they'd like to talk about anything and be sensitive to their need for privacy. Don't approach them directly to ask about their "depression." Invite them to talk about how they are feeling currently. Be a good listener and realise you can't fix things. The principal objective is to help them understand they need help and have someone to turn to for support if and when it is needed.

For more information about depression, including signs, symptoms and treatments, visit the website of mental health charity MIND.  

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