Depression affects 20% of the population.

Research suggests that one in five of us will suffer from an episode of mental illness at some point in our lives.  That’s 20% of the population – a lot of people.  The general public still don’t fully understand depression and mental health issues. People with depression still experience a sense of shame and taboo.

Clinical depression is characterised by feelings of bleakness, of feeling there is no reason to cary on wth lilfe.  Of not seeing why you are here on the planet.  Physical Symptoms include extreme tiredness, an inability to concentrate.  Difficulty communicating.  A sense of being heavy almost as if wading through treacle.  A complete loss of energy and focus.

Dealing with depression as an employer

As an employer, you may be faced with an employee becoming ill because of depression.  Typical episodes of clinical depression take around 6-12 months to lift completely.  For an employer, this is a long time to have a member of staff absent.  Many people who have episodes of depression can be the hardest working. They can be the most ambitious and capable members of the team. They can occupy critical roles within an organisation.

So what can you as an employer do in this situation?  There are several options you can take to help your member of staff recover and return to the workplace.

1. Have a comprehensive healthcare policy

If you have a company healthcare policy, make sure that it covers your staff for mental health issues and physical ones.  This will then help reduce the costs to you as you can use the policy to help your staff member.

2. Offer private counselling

If you can, offer your employee the chance to attend private counselling sessions.  Counselling is available through the NHS, of course. However, it can take around 3-4 months before regular sessions become available.  This is due to the high demand for the service.  Offering private counselling sessions will help to speed up the recovery of your employee.

3. Get expert advice

If your healthcare policy covers it, arrange for your staff member to see a consultant psychiatrist ensure that the diagnosis of depression is correct.  Many GPs offer a blanket diagnosis of depression when other symptoms are present, which indicates other mental health conditions. If the consultant recommends any changes in the workplace, then please carry them out too.

4. Consider the financial impact on your employee

If finances permit, continue to pay your employee their usual salary (providing this does not go against your company sickness policy) while they are absent.  Many people with depression end up in financial difficulties because of the long term drop in income that they suffer due to the length of time it can take to recover fully.

5.  Offer to coach on their return to work

Another way to help your employee as they begin to recover (around 3-4 months after the initial diagnosis) is to offer them some coaching sessions.  Coaching is a perfect way of helping people focus on the future and find a new meaning in life.  People who suffer from depression are often very self-critical, and coaching is an excellent way to help break this pattern.  Your company health policy may also cover this.  Please ensure that the coach is aware of the employee’s mental health condition. Check they preferably have experience in working with people with depression.

6. Consider holistic therapies as part of your healthcare package

Some healthcare policies cover holistic therapies, many of which are beneficial to lifting depression.  Policies often cover acupuncture, massage and reiki (a form of energy healing), and they are all beneficial to people with depression. They can help people overcome the lack of energy and begin to find their mojo again.

7. Include an option for cognitive behaviour therapy

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is another perfect tool to help challenge thinking patterns.  Again this can be offered through the NHS, although this can be patchy depending on what area your employee lives in.

8. Introduce a phased return to work

When your employee is ready to return to the workplace, work with them to ensure a gentle phased return.  If they are usually a full-time employee, start them with just 1 or 2 days a week at first, and gradually build up to a whole week.  If they are part-time, do the same on a pro-rata basis.  Remember, their energy levels may still not be significant when they return, and they will tire quickly.  If you can, make sure they have access to a rest area where they can take a bit of time out to help them get used to being back in the workplace.

9. Make reasonable adjustments

Adjustments may need to be made in the workplace.  People with depression are often susceptible to stimuli such as bright light, noise, computers, loud machinery and being in crowds.  These situations can feel very overwhelming, so if possible, adjust their workplace to be much quieter and let them find their own pace again.  If music is played in the workplace, try turning it off altogether for a few weeks while they readjust, or if that would upset other colleagues, turn it down a little.

Remember, your staff member may feel very embarrassed when they return to work.  Many people who have episodes of depression are generally capable individuals, so breaking down in this way can seem like a public acknowledgement of their weakness and vulnerability.  So treat them as you did before and let them find their voice again in their own time.

Most people who suffer from an episode of depression go on to make a full recovery.  They become just as productive as they were before the depression, so any help you can offer to your staff member while they recover is money well invested.

The Fairy Coachmother

I work intuitively with people to help coach them towards achieving their dreams and goals. I am publishing a book on depression on Kindle Direct Publishing on 1 December. I have a varied background including working in both corporate and small businesses. I am a qualified holistic therapist, personal performance coach, business and executive coach.