How to Deal With a Colleague Suffering from Depression

Depression is a common mental health condition, affecting many across the world. Approximately one in five people will experience depression in their life. Every situation is unique, yielding a wide variety of causes.

There is a good possibility that someone you work with is depressed. Perhaps it's affecting their work which made you aware, or they have confided in you. Either way, there's positive ways in which you can approach this situation; the following article indentifies the common symptoms, supporting your colleague, treatment options to consider and what best to avoid. Helping a colleague will not only benefit the individual, but possibly impact your work environment in a more positive manner.

What Are Some Common Symptoms?

Mental health conditions do not yield traditional symptoms. When someone is not well, they tend to display physical symptoms. For example, if someone had MS you would see the ways in which the disease was affecting that individual. When it comes to depression, majority of the symptoms are behavioural. This is why some people have a hard time understanding what someone else is experiencing.

If you believe that a colleague may be suffering from depression. Look out for the following symptoms:

  • Constantly feeling low
  • Doesn't appear to enjoy much
  • Has lost interest in life and potentially work related tasks
  • Complains of being tired all the time
  • Doesn't seem to want to eat much
  • Highly agitated (this could be due to the lack of sleep they're experiencing)
  • Talking about self-harm
  • Withdrawing from social situations
  • Frequently absent and commonly miss deadlines
  • Struggling with decision-making
  • Having a hard time coping with tasks

How You Can Be There For a Colleague

The following are some tips for helping a depressed colleague:

  • Be there for them. Sometimes an individual just needs someone to talk to.
  • Listen without judging.
  • Look for clues that may be causing the depression. If you know what the problem is, offer your assistance in finding a solution.
  • Encourage them to keep up with activities they love.
  • Invite them out with you. If you're going out for a coffee on your lunch break, invite them to come along. You do not need to dive into their depression, simply be there if they want to talk about their condition.
  • If the symptoms are worsening, encourage them to see a doctor for more in-depth advice and treatment options.

Treatment Options to Suggest

Before you approach your colleague, educate yourself regarding depression. This will allow you to understand the situation more thoroughly. The following are some treatments that you can recommend:

  • Self-Help: There are numerous self-help book and programmes available. Perhaps you could recommend one that you came across in your research.
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: Targets negative thoughts and feelings which may be the cause of their depression. This is a highly recommended treatment option. Suggest a local psychologist that you found.
  • Medication: There are various medications available and this is an area that needs to be discussed with a doctor. However, you can share your knowledge regarding various medical options. Anti-depressants are common when depression is severe. If they take this route, remind them that the effects will not be felt for approximately two weeks.
  • Natural Remedies: Many individuals target their depression by exercising or eating a more nutrient-rich diet. Many individuals have had success consuming specific herbs as well. St. John's Wort is a common example.

Keep In Mind

1.     Don't Assume: Just because someone's behaviour has changed does not mean that they're depressed. Do not diagnose someone as you're more than likely unqualified to do so. Many people endure hardships in their personal life; this may be spilling over into their work environment. 

2.     Don't Gossip: If a colleague has disclosed private information, don't repeat it. This could shame or embarrass them, making the situation worse.

If you're concerned about a colleague or your current work environment, offer your assistance. If your colleague has not approached you, bring the situation to your manager's attention. Sometimes a manager can offer great resources, provided by the company. It can be challenging to ask for help, so try and assist them. If they do ask for help, encourage them to seek treatment. Depression is an illness and should be treated accordingly. 


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