Prior to COVID, the way in which we worked has long taken a toll on many. We need to admit the problems, take stock and reimagine a future that works for everyone. This article focuses on the longstanding and growing issue of mental health that pre-existed COVID but has only become more accute. We must not let this opportunity to #reimagine a healthier future pass us by.
“Nothing should go back to normal. Normal wasn’t working. If we go back to the way things were, we will have lost the lesson. May we rise up and do better.” ~ Anonymous
Are you feeling a bit overwhelmed from time to time? If so, you are definitely not alone. Rates of anxiety and depression have been shooting through the roof lately during the pandemic. According to research done by OC Tanner, a global consultancy focused on workplace culture, over 60% of employees are experiencing some level of depression. It’s certainly not a stretch to see how a pandemic that uproots every aspect of normal life could cause prolonged feelings of worry and doubt.
The Inconvenient Backstory
Even before COVID-19 rates of depression in North American workplaces were widespread and climbing. In both the US and Canada, depression topped the list of health-related productivity costs at work. When you look at the many additional stressors people now face – financial and job insecurity, trauma from widespread disease, the fear of getting sick, the loss of community and unprecedented physical distancing, extraordinary political turmoil – it would seem a perfect storm of anxiety-producing events have been unleashed.
Anxiety and depression are on the rise and will likely worsen in the coming weeks. In the US, experts warn that a historic wave of mental-health problems is approaching: depression, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicide. Supporting workers with mental health services is not only an ethical obligation for employers, but it’s also a bottom-line issue. Tired, anxious people are simply not able to be at their best. They need and deserve support, especially in our current circumstances.
Signs of Depression
We all feel a little down at times, which is simply life. But if the blue mood lasts for a few weeks, deepens and/or it starts interfering with everyday life, it may be clinical depression.
Even though few people experience depression in exactly the same way, the following are common signs that a sufferer could exhibit:
- Withdrawal from, or extreme dependence, on others
- Slowness of speech
- Chronic fatigue
- Alcohol/drug abuse
- Difficulty in making decisions
- Decreased productivity
- Inability to concentrate
- Decline in dependability
- Unusual increase in errors at work
- Being prone to accidents
- Frequent tardiness, increased “sick” days
Seeking Help for Yourself or Someone You Know
If you think that you or a teammate may be dealing with depression the first step is the most important.
- Respect & recognition – If you think a teammate is experiencing depression, you should continue to show them respect. Help make the person aware of their value at work and to the team. Be encouraging and offer genuine compliments every day.
- Foster open dialogue – Use the trust between you to support them to seek help and/or continued treatment. Encourage your teammate to speak with their health professional, an on-site health professional or an employee assistance person. These people can then direct a person with depression towards appropriate treatment such as counseling, self-help groups or various other supports and specialists.
- Encourage work/life balance – While this may sound like a simple solution, this remedy has been shown to have a significant impact on the rate of depression across all types of workers (minorities, essential workers, remote workers, and nonremote workers). The numbers do not lie. When people reported they had achieved a successful work/life balance during the COVD-19 crisis, they were 63% less likely to be depressed. People simply need to feel they can escape work to focus on other parts of their personal life, as needed, during this most disruptive time.
If after reading the above signs you think you might be going through depression, seek help. You will feel the better for it and one way or another, you have nothing to lose but perhaps the depression itself.
Treatments for depression, alone or in combination can be highly effective…but they will only work if the person with the dogged blues takes the first step.
In the US, if you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255). Crisis Text Line also provides free, 24/7, confidential support via text message to people in crisis when they text to 741741.
In Canada, the Crisis Services Canada Suicide Prevention & Support, call 1.833.456.4566. Crisis Text Line also provides free, 24/7, confidential support via text message to people in crisis when thy text to 45645.