Depression Overview

Depression is a mental health condition which causes continuous low mood. It is more than feeling unhappy temporarily and someone with depression cannot just ‘snap out of it’. Depression affects between 1 in 5 and 1 in 4 adults in the UK.

What are the signs and symptoms of depression?

Some examples of signs of depression in an individual may include:

  • Restlessness
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • No longer enjoying doing things that you used to enjoy
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Avoiding friends and family
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Dizziness
  • Low libido
  • Physical symptoms, like aches and pains
  • Fatigue
  • Under/overeating
  • Irritability
  • Bad memory
  • Suicidal thoughts

How does depression get diagnosed and treated?

Depression can be difficult to diagnose as people often feel ashamed of their symptoms.

The easiest way to access treatment is through self-referral to a mental health service, or to go via a GP who can assess symptoms in conversation with the person to determine the need to access treatment.

The most common treatments are antidepressant medicines known as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) which help alter brain chemistry. This can help with low mood and related anxiety.

A person with depression will often undergo therapy alongside medication to tackle the underlying cause of their depression, such as a major life event (bereavement, abuse, etc.)

Lifestyle changes such as regularly exercising, cutting down on alcohol and caffeine consumption and using apps for mindfulness can also help alleviate depression.

Attending a support group can also help people with depression, as it is beneficial to share experiences and understand that others feel similarly to them.

Pre or post-natal depression (depression before or after a person’s baby is born) is treated in a similar way. It can also occur in expectant or new fathers.

There are a few ways to determine whether an employee with depression might require reasonable adjustments:

The employee may or may not wish to disclose their depression, as many people feel shame regarding their depression. Regardless, questions regarding the nature of any additional needs and what extra support may be required can be broached sensitively. For example:

  • Have they required adjustments in the past? It is important that an employer does not jump to conclusions or assumptions based on their existing understanding of depression, but instead keep up a dialogue with the employee, which in itself may help alleviate depression or related anxiety.

What reasonable adjustments are possible for employees with depression?

Employers have a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments for employees with depression if they know, are aware of, or could ‘reasonably be expected to know’ that the employee has depression. Most employees will tell their employer what reasonable adjustments they need. They often involve simple changes in the way an employer might usually do things.

If the employee does not disclose a health issue or disability which may affect their performance up front, an employer should broach the subject sensitively if they suspect that there may be a disability behind the employee’s reduced performance. Reasonable adjustments can then be made in accordance with the employee’s needs, including, in the case of depression:

  • Extra time to complete tasks to accommodate difficulties the person may have juggling work tasks and intrusive or anxious thoughts.
  • A structured working day to allow the employee to concentrate more easily.
  • Providing regular, sensitive feedback and reassurance, so that an employee with depression who may come across particularly vulnerable to criticism, or stressed in a work environment, can stay abreast of what they are doing well, or what they could improve on.
  • Time off to attend appointments, so that the person can work on recovery while staying in work.
  • Flexibility regarding working from home if the employee is having a particularly difficult period depression-wise and they would find it easier to work without the added commute, dress code, etc.
  • Raising awareness so that colleagues understand the employee’s depression and can help ensure the employee feels comfortable at work. This might involve learning more about the condition to gain a better understanding of what the employee might be facing day-to-day.

Depression Signposting

Depression UK – organisation helping people cope with their depression, encouraging dialogue between people with depression and mutual support to aid loneliness that may be brought on by the condition.

PANDAS Foundation – charity supporting people with pre or post-natal depression through online support groups encouraging mutual support, helplines and resources (0808 1961 776).

Mind – mental health charity with resources and advice to support someone with depression and the impact this may have on their wellbeing (0300 123 3393).

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