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How To Help Depressed Employees


Depression, also called major depressive disorder, is a prevalent and serious medical condition that adversely impacts a person's feelings, behaviors and thoughts. An employee who has depression may exhibit symptoms that can range from mild to severe, such as:

  • Feeling sad.
  • Losing interest in activities that were once enjoyable.
  • Experiencing a depressed mood.
  • Having sleep problems.
  • Gaining or losing weight.
  • Experiencing decreased energy/increased fatigue.
  • Having difficulty concentrating.
  • Feeling worthless or guilty.
  • Having thoughts of suicide.

The American Psychiatric Association says depression can decrease a person's "ability to function at work and at home." Left untreated, depression can result in employee absenteeism, presenteeism and disengagement, ultimately harming the company's bottom line.

It's important to adopt measures that facilitate early intervention, aid employees in their struggle against depression and reduce damages to the company. 

Below are tips for accomplishing this.

Learn about depression, but do not diagnose an employee

Educating yourself will help you spot depression symptoms early on so you can promptly intervene. 

Note that depression is a complicated disorder. For starters, there are several types of depression, including major depression, persistent depressive disorder, perinatal depression and seasonal affective disorder. These disorders are comorbid and can interact.

So, while you should learn as much as you can about depression, it's critical that you avoid diagnosing an employee. Only a licensed physician or mental health professional can diagnose depression.

Promote awareness and foster a culture of health

Depression is highly treatable, compared with other mental disorders. In fact, 80% to 90% of people with depression respond positively to treatment, according to the APA.

Here are some ways to help depressed employees in their treatment journey:

  • Create a culture that makes employees feel safe about discussing mental health issues.
  • Establish a confidential system that employees can use to report mental health concerns, such as speaking directly with their manager or someone in human resources.
  • Train managers on identifying signs of depression in employees and how to take appropriate action.
  • Provide reasonable accommodations, such as flexible work schedules.
  • Help depressed employees better manage their workload by breaking down larger projects into smaller, more manageable tasks.
  • Focus on supporting the employee, rather than criticizing them.
  • Offer an employee assistance program and wellness initiatives that help employees cope with mental health issues.

Provide external resources

Numerous federal, state and local resources are available for employees with depression, including: 

Incorporate the external resources into your internal wellness program. Also, give your employees a list of help lines so they know where to go for immediate assistance.

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Our firm provides the information in this e-newsletter for general guidance only, and does not constitute the provision of legal advice, tax advice, accounting services, investment advice, or professional consulting of any kind. The information provided herein should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional tax, accounting, legal, or other competent advisers. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a professional adviser who has been provided with all pertinent facts relevant to your particular situation. The information is provided "as is," with no assurance or guarantee of completeness, accuracy, or timeliness of the information, and without warranty of any kind, express or implied, including but not limited to warranties of performance, merchantability, and fitness for a particular purpose.
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