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What to do if an employee is struggling with depression

By Rachel Clift, Health & Wellbeing Director at Ben

As the predominant mental health problem worldwide, there is an estimated 350 million people suffering with depression across the world[1]. Depression is also one of the most common mental health issues faced by people in the UK.

Depression is more than simply feeling unhappy or fed up. Most of us will, at some point in our lives, experience low mood or feeling down, which can last a few days or even stretch into a couple of weeks. However, when we’re depressed, our low mood and other related mental and physical symptoms will carry on persistently for weeks and weeks, months or even years with no let up. If we experience episodes of depression, our whole life and relationships can be affected, and everyday tasks that were once easy can become overwhelming.

Milder forms of depression can make everyday tasks – such as sleeping or working – harder to do and the most severe cases can make a person feel worthless and suicidal. Depression can affect anyone at any age and from any background. With the right treatment and support, it is possible to manage the symptoms of depression and make a full recovery. Even the most severe cases can be managed and treated, often using talking therapies or medication.

Given how common this condition is, employers, will at some point, find themselves in a situation where an employee or colleague is struggling with depression. With this in mind, we’ve put together some guidance on what to do if you think an employee may be suffering with depression or has reported that they are depressed.

  1. Don’t be afraid to talk….
    Ask if you could have some time with them. Make it clear that they have done nothing wrong, and informally sit down with them and ask how they are. It’s useful to mention that you or other colleagues have noticed a change in their demeanor or behaviour, but be prepared to elaborate on this and provide examples. 

  2. It doesn’t need to be a taboo subject
    If any employee does open up to you about how they are feeling and that they are struggling with their mental health, treat this is in the same way as you would someone who tells you they have a physical health problem. Ask them how they are feeling, what changes have they noticed, what have they done already or have they reached out for support elsewhere.

    Listening is key, summarising and paraphrasing can demonstrate to the individual that you have heard them and you are listening, but don’t overdo it. You also don’t need to have all the answers. It can be useful to focus your conversations on what support would help in the workplace – for example, reduced hours, targets, or taking some time away.

  3. If they open up about a mental health issue
    Arrange regular catch-ups so you can review the support you provide in the workplace. Let them know that they can contact Ben’s free and confidential helpline and online chat for further support and advice with their mental health.

  4. Share Ben’s advice
    We have just launched our new web pages about depression to help people who are struggling and need extra support. So spread the word and share these resources with your employees through your communications channels so they know where to come for advice and guidance.

  5. A culture of support
    Creating a culture where employees feel comfortable about seeking support can make all the difference. Letting your employees know where they can turn if they are struggling with life’s challenges, including their mental health, is important as part of being a supportive employer. Read more about supporting the emotional wellbeing of your employees.

  6. Raise awareness and engagement with Ben
    Ben can work with your employees to support their health and wellbeing. Regularly spread the word about Ben in your company – they can get in touch by using the contact details on this page: www.ben.org.uk/contact-us. You can also promote our tips, advice and tools for total health & wellbeing which are sent straight to an email inbox – sign up on our website.

  7. Supporting people back into the workplace
    Around 50% of long-term absences from work are the result of mental health issues, according to the NHS. If an employee has been absent from work due to mental health, we have put together an article on supporting employees back into the workplace.

  8. Provide training for managers
    Mental health is a complex and diverse subject which can make managing mental health in the workplace difficult and challenging. Our training equips your managers with the knowledge, skills and tools to confidently navigate mental health challenges within the workplace and effectively manage and support employees. Click here to find out more about our mental health training.

  9. Promote positive wellbeing
    Aim to embed embedding wellbeing into day to day practices, including: work life balance, work culture, promoting company benefits and supporting positive lifestyle changes and healthy living. 

[1] https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S2215036616300311

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