Depression in the workplace – How to support employees at risk


In Australia around 1 million people per year will have depression. Having an employee with depression can negatively affect your workplace. Creating a healthy workplace environment is the key to making employees with depression feel supported, valued and understood.

What is depression?

According to beyondblue depression is more than just a low mood, it’s when a person experiences various symptoms consistently for an extended period of time. The symptoms of depression are:

Behaviour – e.g. not getting things done at work, unable to concentrate, not doing usual enjoyable activities

  • Feelings – e.g. overwhelmed, unhappy, guilty
  • Thoughts – e.g. ‘It’s my fault’, ‘people would be better off without me’, ‘I’m worthless’
  • Physical – e.g. tired all the time, sick and run down, headaches and muscle pain

What causes depression?

 There are many different causes of depression, but depression usually results from a combination of recent negative experiences, personal factors and previous traumatic events. Depression can also be caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. Which means your brain has too much or too little of a particular brain chemical. Genetic history, life stressors, medications, drugs and alcohol and medical conditions can affect the way your brain regulates moods.

Ways to help employees with depression

The first step of helping employees with depression is too create a healthy work environment. A previous blog post by GB lists 5 tips in 5 minutes: building a mentally healthy workplace .

Educating other staff members about depression is important in creating an environment where an employee feels accepted and understood. Supplying brochures and putting up posters and also encouraging discussion is a good step towards making employees aware of depression and its symptoms and remove the stigma around mental illness.

Providing helpful resources for employees suffering with depression can help an employee feel supported. Referrals to counsellors and psychologists is helpful in encouraging employees to take the first step towards talking through their problems. Even just letting your employees know that you are available to chat can significantly help an employee feel valued and important.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is very important in coping with depression, but people with depression often find it difficult to eat healthily and exercise often. Eating healthily and exercising regularly helps to give people an overall sense of wellbeing. Encouraging employees to bring healthy packed lunches, providing free fruit instead of chocolate or lollies and encouraging employees to go on walks during lunchbreaks are all ways to bring about healthy choices in the workplace. For more ways to make healthy changes in the workplace, check out little changes, big difference.