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Taboo topic: depression at the workplace

Probably one of the biggest taboo topics in our society, but especially in the business world, is the illness of depression and how to deal with sufferers in the workplace. A topic that is hardly discussed enough. According to the German Federal Ministry of Health, between 16 and 20 out of every 100 people suffer from depression. We asked ourselves what factors contribute to the development of this illness, what happens when the ability to work reaches a low and how employers and colleagues can be helpful and supportive in such a situation. The topic of depression is a big taboo in the working world. After all, without being able to function, an economy characterized by capitalism can’t do much with those affected. So let’s start an attempt to lift the taboo and boost communication about such a relevant topic.

  • How can depression develop?
  • The common symptoms of depression
  • What to do if you can’t work because of depression?
  • How employers and colleagues can help

How can depression develop?

There are several ways that depression can develop. Since this is a mental illness, its development and course cannot be predicted across the board. Both factors can run differently for each individual. However, there are certain patterns and symptoms that can occur regularly. The general studies on the development of depression are based on different theories. If one deals with the multifactorial model, one stumbles over the union of various connections. According to this model, genetic, biochemical, environmental and personality factors can play a decisive role in the development of depression. For the treatment of depression, three main types of recognized therapeutic treatment methods are used: Depth psychology-based therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and psychoanalysis. In individual cases, medication is also recommended to accompany the therapy.

Common symptoms of depression

Social isolation, fatigue, the absence of pleasure, loss of appetite, sleep disturbances, and low self-esteem. This captures just a few of the many symptoms of depression. Depressed mood can often occur at a striking level, and especially if it persists for an extended period of time, it should be investigated to see if a depressive illness may be present. Absence of pleasure goes hand in hand with depressed mood. The pleasure and enjoyment of previous interests and activities, hardly seem satisfying anymore. In addition, both self-confidence and self-esteem often not only decline, but in many cases even self-reproach and self-doubt must cede the stage. The constant worrying and brooding in such cases can often be accompanied by anxiety disorders.

One of the best known symptoms of depression is immense fatigue and loss of motivation or drive. Nothing seems to have meaning or purpose, and if it does, the weight of the world, which seems to weigh on one’s shoulders, is far too heavy to fight off the fatigue. If lack of concentration, regular sleep disturbances or loss of appetite are then finally added, it is quite possible that a depression is present.

Above all, it is important to note that both anxiety and burn-out syndrome fall under the category of depressive disorders.

What to do if you can’t work because of depression?

If you suffer from depression, you can take sick leave as normal, just as with any other illness. The regulations here are similar to those for any other illness. If you are on sick leave due to depression, you must inform your employer immediately and present the sick note. On average, employees take 65 days of sick leave in the case of depression. This may differ if inpatient treatment is necessary, which usually occurs when suicidal thoughts arise.

The issue of continued pay is also not an unimportant one, as depression can often drag on over a long period of time and it is difficult to estimate a regular recovery time. Generally, employees can receive continued pay for up to six weeks if they are on sick leave due to depression and cannot work. In the event that one is on sick leave for a longer period of time, continued pay will end and the health insurance company will pay sick pay. It is also helpful to know that in the case of depression or mental disorder “with disease value,” the health insurance company will cover the entire cost of treatment.

How employers and colleagues can help with depression

When it comes specifically to the consequences of depression and what employers and colleagues in particular can do, various factors should be included.

First of all, it should be mentioned that depression can often have serious consequences, not only for the person affected, but can also have a serious impact on performance and work ability. Especially when it comes to a burn-out syndrome, work can often have contributed to the development of the disease. For colleagues and employers it can be quite a challenge to find the right way to deal with the affected person. Here, in most cases, it is helpful to ask the person directly, but prudently. “How can you be helped? How can you be supported?”

It can also be helpful to ask if perhaps the current workload should be adjusted to accommodate the healing process.

Apart from that, however, unhelpful statements should be held back. “Pull yourself together”, “Don’t be so emotional”, “Enjoy the little things in life”. In most cases, these statements are counterproductive and, in the worst cases, only lead to further social isolation.

But what employers can do to help, especially from their side, is to offer flexible working hours, adapted working spaces and, above all, understanding, support and insight.

If you want to learn more about burnout and its prevention, you can find all important information here.



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