“I’m 27, my name is Mariah and I live in New Orleans.
I think that everything is hard work, getting out of bed, showering,
Answering emails and phone calls, paying the bills.
If I didn’t have to, I would never leave the couch, my ipad
And I would sit happily together as I zoned out on stupid television
Or played mindless games.
This is my life, the life of a depressed, but the funny thing is, no one knows it.
Yes that’s right. I “hold it together” so well
That people around me, even my close friends and family,
Have no idea that inside I am falling apart.
I go to work everyday, and I smile and engage in pointless office chitchat.
I go out for a drink with my friends, and ask them about their life and when they ask about mine,
I come up with some middle of the road way of saying “oh you know, same ole’”.
I run my company so well that my employees would have no idea
That I am dying on the inside.
I do pay my bills, I do shower every day, and I do get out of bed.
Does that mean I am not depressed?
I don’t know. All I know is how I feel,
And how everyday I just want to scream so loud about how much pain I am in.”
It’s normal that at some point in your leadership career you will be supervising an employee who is struggling with depression.
Clinical depression is a condition that affects a person’s thoughts, feelings and behaviors.
For example, when one of your most dependable employees starts missing deadlines or a project manager struggles to make simple decisions or an outgoing worker becomes withdrawn and stops socializing, it may be a sign that they are struggling with more than just a bad day.
Some people have been coping with depression since their teens and may be aware of the warning signs. Whereas, others may be suffering from depression for the first time due to the loss of a family member, divorce, stress, illness or major injury. They may not even be aware that they are depressed.
Fortunately, depression is one of the most treatable mental health disorders. Around 80% of people who receive treatment show an improvement in their symptoms generally within four to six weeks.
This is why it’s important for business leaders to pay attention to the mental wellbeing of their staff members.
Executives should know the warning signs of depression as well as what steps to take to ensure that their employees receive the mental healthcare they need so they can return to being productive and successful members of the team.
1. IDENTIFY THE SIGNS
If you have noticed several of the following behaviors, you should have a conversation with the employee about their mental wellbeing as soon as possible.
To do that successfully it’s extremely impirotant that managers and frontline supervisors are adequately trained in your HR policies regarding mental illness and they understand how to approach employees who may be suffering from a mental health disorder. People do not experience clinical depression in the same way.
2. START TO SPEAK WITH THEM
Firt of all, it’s important to establish an environment where they feel comfortable talking with you. You should begin the conversation expressing concern about their wellbeing instead of focusing on the mistakes they have made on the job.
Focus on the person instead of the problems and don’t judge, avoiding making assumptions during the conversation. You are not their therapist and should not be diagnosing what you think is wrong with them.
So, show always respect: If your employee has trusted you by sharing about their depression, and once you understand that the symptoms they display don’t affect their ability to do their job, treat them with honor and respect, not like they’re “broken” and suddenly incapable. Many depressed people can perform work and manage themselves well.
Infact remember, mental health information is very sensitive. It’s imperative that you do not break the employee’s confidence or pass on their heath information by mistake.
Before ending the conversation, you should discuss making an action plan. For example you will schedule meetings with management to address work-related issues that may be contributing to the problem.
Throughout the conversation it’s vital the employee feels they are supported.
Finally if an employee is not comfortable talking with you, you can always refer them to your HR staff, an occupational psychologist or physician.
3. DEVELOP AN ACTION PLAN AND CHECK THE RESULTS
When people are suffering from depression, they may experience symptoms off and on over an extended period of time. The plan should outline how depression is impacting performance, identify workplace triggers, include warning signs and offer steps both the frontline manager and employee should follow.
Fot example there may need to be adjustments to help the employee cope with depression at work, including a flexible schedule, change in lunch time to take medication, making break times shorter and more frequent, changing the employee’s role until the depressive symptoms are under control, increased support from management to help prioritize projects, or allowing the employee to take an extra break for a time out, if needed.
If the employee needs time off work to address a mental health problem, make sure to stay in contact and check in occasionally to see how they are doing and when they may be able to come back to work.
Just because a person has a mental health illness does not mean that they are not capable to perform their job. Most people can manage their condition and job at a high standard.
They may simply need a little support to help them through a difficult time and, afterwards, they may be one of your most productive and loyal employees.