How To Recognize Depression in the Workplace

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Workplace depression costs employers billions each year. While employers cannot diagnose depression, they can be aware of the signs and encourage their employees to seek assistance.

Difficulty: Average

Time Required: N/A

Here's How:

  1. Educate yourself about depression. Depression is an illness, not a character flaw. When a person's illness is under control, they may be your best employee.
  2. When a person is depressed, they may stop caring about their own safety. Look for risk taking and proneness to accidents.
  1. A depressed person can go through a wide variety of moods, such as irritability, anger and sadness. They may become uncooperative or sulky.
  2. Be on the lookout for morale problems. Employees may express dissatisfaction with themselves, their home life, or their job.
  3. Depression can make a person feel fatigued. Listen for frequent statements of how tired they feel.
  4. Absenteeism may rise. Because it is not socially acceptable to take off work for depression, employees may frequently call in sick with other complaints, such as colds or flu.
  5. It is very common for those with untreated depression to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol.
  6. Look for signs of decreased productivity and loss of pride in work.
  7. People who ignores the stresses in their lives are most prone to psychosomatic illness. Listen for complaints of unexplained aches and pains.
  8. Have a talk with your employee about the changes you have observed. Let them know that although you expect their performance to improve, you realize they may have some personal problems.
  1. Offer your employee information about what they can do to get assistance, such as counseling through an Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
  2. Be empathetic and non-judgmental, just as you would for any other illness.
  3. Set clear guidelines of what you expect from your employee. Be clear about what allowances company policy allows you to make for their illness.
  1. Reassure your employee that what they say to you and their counselor will be kept confidential.


  1. Do not try to diagnose depression yourself. Give your employee information about your company's EAP, if you have one, or recommend that they see a physician.
  2. A depressed person may need some special allowances, such as a flexible schedule, while they get well. Contact your Human Resources Director to learn what your company's policy is.
  3. Severe depression may be life-threatening to the employee. Take any suicide threats seriously and contact an EAP counselor or other professional for more information about what you should do.

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