Clinical Depression is a mental health condition which is defined by a persistent low mood and feelings of negativity and sadness. This is not the same as feeling sad for a few days; people with clinical depression feel like this for weeks, months and even years.

Many people misunderstand depression as a single period of sadness after a difficult time, but really anybody can become depressed at any time.

There are many different triggers, and it is different for every person. Significant life changes such as bereavement, divorce, redundancy or money worries can cause people into a period of depression. For others, it can be a slow downward spiral, where smaller events accumulate to become overwhelming. Other significant causes include loneliness, giving birth, a family history of depression and mental health issues and abuse of drugs and alcohol.

Managing your depression at work

Depression has many symptoms which can vary widely from person to person, and make simple everyday tasks extremely difficult. This includes going to work. There are psychological and physical symptoms all manifesting in different ways. Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • sadness
  • low mood
  • hopelessness
  • feeling guilt-ridden or irritable
  • feeling worried
  • lack of energy
  • changes in sleeping habits
  • loss of appetite
  • loss of enjoyment for previously enjoyed activities

There can also be large effects on someone’s sociability, which might mean they find it hard to engage in conversation, stop making an effort to see people, and taking part in fewer social activities.

Doctors and health care professionals tend to split depression up into mild, moderate and severe. However, many people with depression cannot recognise the symptoms or change in themselves, so it can be hard to identify how severe the depression is. Often it takes a family member or friend to suggest something might be wrong.

Suffering from depression shouldn’t get in the way of a career. There are lots of treatments for depression, and many people go on to make a full recovery. In the UK, 1 in 6 people experience a common mental health problem such as anxiety or depression every week. Depression is very common, and you can do whatever job or career you like with the right care and support.

Your depression may mean that you need extra support in the workplace but under the Equality Act of 2010 employers have to make reasonable adjustments to support any form of disability. If you are already employed, you can approach your employer to discuss how you can best be supported through at work while you manage your depression. There may be ways in which your employer can make your work environment more comfortable or help to increase your productivity level by changing your work habits. These all come under ‘reasonable adjustments’.

Suppose you are unemployed and looking for work. In that case, you should consider telling potential employers about your condition in the application process, so they can do what they can to support you during the interview stage and beyond. It is entirely up to you whether you disclose this information to a potential employer; however, it is illegal for an employer to discriminate on the grounds of mental health, so you are not putting your chance of being hired at risk by doing so.

Advice for employers

Supporting a staff member with depression can be difficult when the variety of symptoms and manifestations is so large. Speak to your employee as they will know the best ways you will be able to help them. These could be different for every employee. Some things you might want to consider include:

  • Flexible working hours and the opportunity for remote working. Depression can cause significant problems in peoples sleeping pattern, which can make them very tired in the mornings and hence not the most comfortable time to start work. Also giving people have the opportunity to work from home might alleviate some of the stress of having to commute to work and interact with colleagues. Supporting a staff member with depression is all about accommodating to what they can manage until they feel well enough.
  • Offering free therapy and counselling. Many employers are choosing to reach out for external help to support the mental health and wellbeing of their staff members. Being able to provide an employee with depression, eight weeks of therapy might drastically improve their mood and their ability to function at work. Head over to our dedicated support page on funding or finding local assistance to locate how you might provide such an option to your employee.
  • Regular meetings with managers to discuss their wellbeing. Providing regular sessions to check-in with employees can help to create a safe space to ask for help and can remind employees that you want to do what you can to help them.

For more information on depression, visit the NHS website. If you want to know more about supporting your staff with mental health conditions related to trauma, read our pages on PTSD.