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Research on Depression in the Workplace.

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Mental Health Matters Journal for Psychiatrists & GP's

MHM Volume 8 Issue1

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If you are a journalist writing a story contact Kayla on 011 234 4837  media@anxiety.org.za


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Literacy is a luxury that many of us take for granted. That is why SADAG created SPEAKING BOOKS and revolutionized the way healthcare information is delivered to low literacy communities.

The customizable 16-page book, read by local celebrity audio recordings, ensures that vital health and social messages can be seen, heard, read and understood by everyone across the world.

We started with books on Teen Suicide prevention , HIV, AIDS and Depression, Understanding Mental Health and have developed over 100+ titles, such as TB, Malaria, Polio, Vaccines for over 45 countries.

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For as long as anybody could remember, Janice was a bright and focused worker who never stopped short of perfection. She always arrived at work punctually, performed her duties well and most of all, enjoyed her work.

But somewhere along the way all that changed. She began missing many days off work, often arriving late when she did go to work, and found herself lagging behind in her work due to trouble concentrating. Although she managed to hide this behaviour from her supervisor, it worsened each day. She knew that something was wrong. Janice, like millions of others, suffered from Clinical Depression – as a result, her work suffered with her.

What is depression? Depression is not merely a case of the “blues”, as many people may think. It is a serious illness that may become chronic. If untreated, depression can ruin families, marriages and careers – of those suffering from severe depression, 15 – 20% may attempt suicide.

Depression can seldom be ascribed to a single cause. It is often brought about by the interaction of a person’s biological predisposition, a psychological tendency towards pessimism, low self-esteem, trauma or long-term stress. Clinical depression affects people of all ages, races and economic groups. Employees suffering from clinical depression can be found throughout the ranks of the workplace, from unskilled workers through to senior executives.

Since depression is so widespread, employers need to develop more effective programmes and policies to address this treatable illness. Although employers may fear that new programmes could drive health and insurance costs higher, helping co-workers to regain their health and return to full productivity will bring about cost benefits that far outweigh any other costs.

Supervisors should be on the lookout for the following symptoms of depression :

· Decreased productivity

· Morale problems

· Lack of co-operation

· Safety problems, accidents and absenteeism

· Complaints of persistent fatigue

· Complaints of persistent aches and pains

· Alcohol and drug abuse

A decline in performance does not automatically present with clinical depression as an underlying cause, but supervisors should encourage employees to obtain whatever help is needed to improve performance. Under no circumstances should a supervisor try to diagnose an employee’s condition. The employee must be urged to consult an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) professional or physician.

Confidentiality is critical for an employee suffering from depression. The employee should be told up-front that company policy dictates that any conversation with an EAP representative or medical professional on the subject will remain strictly confidential.

Employers and employees both benefit when they take proactive measures to detect and treat depression. Like Janice, many people suffering from depression are frightened, confused and usually unaware of what is prompting their seemingly abnormal behaviour. If employees are informed about their company’s willingness to assist with these problems, they will be motivated to seek treatment, recover and improve their work performance.


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