Opening up about depression in the workplace
We’ve heard it time and time again, ‘depression is an illness, like any other physical illness’ yet still, so many of us suffer in silence, working the 9-5 with no inference of the daily inner turmoil. Despite world-wide mental health campaigning, there is still some work to do in reducing the stigma associated with mental illness. Leading employees to believe they must hide their illness, fearing it may hinder employment prospects and affect attitudes held towards them. But hiding behind depression, pretending you are okay, can be exhausting, may worsen symptoms and will achieve nothing in breaking down the unnecessary stigma associated with the illness.
Having that important conversation
Although lagging behind other countries in workplace wellness, it is certainly a strong focus for Australian government and businesses with many business recognising the need to prioritise their employees emotional and psychological wellbeing. Clinical Psychologist, Kathryn Smith comments; “Over the years I have seen many clients who have realised the benefits of disclosing their illness with their employer. Opening up and having ‘the conversation’ did not put their long-term employment at risk but rather resulted in more flexibility and the ability to attend important appointments.”
Finding an ice-breaker, like RU OK Day, observed by most workplaces across the country, could be the ideal time to have that important conversation with your manager, HR resource or a colleague you trust. Keep the conversation brief and professional and if you are comfortable with it, impart some knowledge on the illness and how you best manage it. It may also be helpful to reassure your employer that you are capable of the job whilst outlining the areas where you may, at times, need support or additional time.
Taking a holistic approach to the ongoing management of depression
If you have depression, it is important to accept that you will need ongoing help and support and part of that is supporting yourself with the right daily tool. Looking at the illness holistically by addressing all aspects of your life, including, work, social and physical will help you to feel in control and maintain a healthier balance.
Therapeutic writing is commonly prescribed as an going way to note daily moods and make sense of your thoughts and behaviour. It helps to pinpoint what affects your mood, thereby enabling you to do more of what makes you feel good and less of what makes you feel bad. This seems awfully simple, but you are whether suffering from depression or not, reflecting on your daily thoughts, encourages mindfulness and can be quite enlightening.
Another well-known mood enhancer is exercise, even a short amount of physical activity taken on a daily basis, can boost serotonin levels, increase energy levels, improve mood and sleep. Sleep is also pivotal to mental health, so it is important to ensure you are encouraging your body and mind to rest. You can read more about good sleep health here.
Following the right diet for depression, eating mindfully and at the right times of day/night plays an important role in encouraging positive mood and mindset. Extensive research shows the powerful effects certain foods and diet has on mood and mental health. As the old saying goes; “You are what you eat”.
Talking to people about your illness and surrounding yourself with a support network of medical professionals, friends, work colleagues and family, will reduce feelings of isolation and assist in recognising early warning signs of a depressive episode.
Lastly, learning to love and support yourself by accepting the illness whilst not letting it define you, will give you the strength you need to continue on the wonderfully complex journey of life.
Teenage Depression: More than just “Doom & Gloom”
Teenagers…..sigh! It’s a well-known fact that during and before puberty your child will experience a surge of hormones, which leads to a variety of intense and unpredictable moods.
A term known as “doom and gloom” is said to be a normal part of teenage development, whereby hormone fluctuation causes them to have low mood, disrupted sleep and low energy levels.
The difficulty for parents is recognizing the difference between “doom and gloom” and clinical depression, as many of the symptoms are the same.
It is difficult to separate the symptoms but typically clinical depression will present as a longer lasting low mood (longer than 2 weeks); be more likely if you have a family history of depression; present if your teenager is experiencing very low self esteem and his behaviour is dangerous or riskier than usual. Depression is also more likely in certain personality types, for example those who seek perfection or have very high standards, or those that do not communicate well and bottle everything up.
It is important to not underestimate your parental intuition when assessing your teenager’s behaviour. You may know if something is just “not right” and if it’s more than just teenager moodiness. If this is the case, or you are just unsure, it is important to seek professional help from your local GP who will put a mental health plan in place.
Treatment of Depression
One in five people commonly experience clinical depression some time in their life. It is essential to understand that it impact us all in some way without any exception. In order to reduce stigma, we need to work together towards creating awareness, enhancing our understanding and being supportive, listen to, and talk with those we are attached to.
Sadness or depressed mood can be normal, but due to certain life pressures people can find it difficult in dealing with depression that starts interfering with their personal as well as professional life.
According to Dr. Stan Steindl, clinical psychologist and director of Psychology Consultants, up to 15% of people are likely to suffer from clinical depression and seek help.
The term depression describes an illness characterised by intense depressed mood that generally persists for two weeks or longer and significantly affects a person’s life. It is often accompanied by feelings of sadness, helplessness, and a loss of enjoyment and satisfaction. Depression can be caused by many different factors, including heredity, biochemical imbalances in the brain, personal and work-related stress, bereavement, trauma or long term personality traits. Not all people who feel sad are necessarily depressed.
Symptoms of Depression: The severity and frequency of symptoms will vary from one individual to the next. The symptoms may consist of:
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
- Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
- Decreased energy, fatigue, being “slowed down”
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
- Insomnia, early-morning wakening, or oversleeping
- Appetite and/or weight loss or overeating and weight gain
- Thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts
- Restlessness, irritability
- Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders and chronic pain.
Treating Depression using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Depression is commonly treated using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, (CBT) an evidence-based therapy which focuses mostly on the way people think about things (including their attitudes and beliefs) and the way they behave. CBT is based on the understanding that thinking negatively is a habit, and, like any other bad habit, it can be modified. It helps people identify where their thoughts and actions are negative, and then to replace these “bad habits” with more helpful thoughts and responses.
CBT utilises both cognitive therapy and behaviour therapy. Cognitive therapy aims to identify and evaluate the unhelpful thoughts (or cognitions) that lead to negative feelings (e.g. depression, anxiety) and behaviours (e.g. avoiding friends). The treatment focuses on questioning thoughts and restructuring these with positive ways to think about difficult situations. Behaviour therapy is goal-oriented and aims to help people change unhealthy or unhelpful behaviours that cause them to suffer or lower their quality and enjoyment of life. For example, people who are depressed often enjoy fewer pleasurable activities and so your psychologist would work with you to identify pleasurable activities and develop a plan to increase your participation in them.
Finally, CBT not only helps you to understand, manage and challenge thought and behaviour patterns, but can also provide you with a range of useful and practical strategies to enhance your productivity, well-being and your ability to cope with various situations in everyday life.
Psychology Consultants have a large team of female and male brisbane psychologists who are equipped with the knowledge and experience to treat clinical depression, depressive disorders and related conditions. For more information on our team of Clinical Psychologists, visit Brisbane Psychologists page.
Fighting Depression and Diabetes
By Dr Stan Steindl, Clinical Psychologist
Feeling sad or down is a normal part of every person’s life. But for people with chronic illness, particularly diabetes, depression is more common and can significantly affect a person’s ability to manage their illness.
Some studies suggest that up to 40% of people with diabetes have elevated symptoms of depression. Statistics vary but many indicate that people with diabetes can be two to three times more likely to suffer depression than the general population and are more likely to suffer from relapses over the years.
People who have diabetes and other chronic illnesses are challenged to face the reality of the disease and the anxiety that comes with it. They are also faced with problems that it places on everyday living such as monitoring and self-treatment and the effect it can have on relationships.
For people with diabetes, depression can interfere with their ability to manage their illness. Poor sleep, lack of self-confidence, low self-esteem, and loss of interest in life can lead to someone taking a less active approach to self-care and illness management. This may in turn increase blood glucose levels, increase risk of acute and long-term diabetes complications, and generally decrease the person’s quality of life.
Diagnosing Depression in people with diabetes.
Despite the high prevalence of depression, studies suggest that depression is still under-diagnosed in people with diabetes. This underdiagnosis could be because symptoms of depression mimic many of the symptoms that people with diabetes experience such as fatigue, and changes in sleep patterns, weight and appetite. Read More