Opening up about depression in the workplace

Posted on October 8, 2018 in Uncategorized - 0

During QLD Mental Health Week 6-14thOctober 2018 

#QMHW #valuementalhealth

By Kathryn Smith, Clinical Psychologist: Psychology Consultants  

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 researchshows 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 yourselfby 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.

You can read more about managing depression here and view our team of Clinical Psychologists here.

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