Managing depression in the workplace can be challenging. It can be tough to consistently hide our vulnerabilities, especially when we spend so much of our day at work, but there are circumstances when it is imperative that we take care of our mental health at work. It may even become necessary to seek accommodations like an altered schedule, more opportunities to work from home, or even take a leave of absence. It can be tough to ask for help, especially in a professional environment, but waiting too long to disclose your struggles may cause your mental health to deteriorate further, resulting in possible performance problems at work. Furthermore, considering the circumstances of 2020, it is likely that people’s mental health difficulties have been exacerbated, and therefore, there is no better time to challenge the stigma of having depression in the workplace.
Depression and Mood Disorders
Depression is a common but serious mood disorder. It has severe symptoms that impact how you think, feel, and go about daily life. Not everyone who has depression will have all the same symptoms, but if you experience some of the following symptoms nearly every day, for most of the day, then you may have depression:
- Low mood or affect which is persistent.
- Severe feelings of hopelessness.
- Feelings of worthlessness.
- Difficulty concentrating at work.
- Decreased interest in activities which you previously enjoyed.
- Lethargy and fatigue.
- Insomnia and oversleeping.
- Inexplainable persistent body aches and pains.
- Suicidal ideation or suicide attempts.
When is it OK to talk to your boss about depression?
If you have been experiencing the symptoms of depression in the workplace, then you may be weighing up the pros and cons of discussing your difficulties with your employer.
You might feel like you’re alone with your struggles at work – casting a quick glance around your colleagues might make you think that you’re the only one having difficulties with coping. However, almost 20% of the U.S. workforce is experiencing a mental health condition, which demonstrates the need to challenge the stigma around discussing mental health at work.
It’s understandable to think that disclosing your difficulties to your boss will be a sign of weakness – most people try to put on a façade in front of others to disguise their problems. However, one of the strongest steps that you could take, is to tell your boss that you need help with managing depression at work.
You don’t have to disclose your mood disorder to your boss but doing so can give them the opportunity to tailor your schedule and environment to optimize your performance by reducing stress and permitting you the space to take care of your mental health. You may not be personally close to your employer, which may make disclosing your depression difficult, but it is genuinely in their best interests to know about your mental health; they want you to perform to the best of your abilities. Plus, if they don’t know about your problems, then they can’t help.
You won’t be penalized for speaking up about your mental health, but you may want to consider the following steps when considering speaking to your boss:
- Think about your specific needs – why are you disclosing the information in the first place? Hold off talking to your boss until you have a sense about what you might need from them; is it time-off? Fewer responsibilities? Considering what form of support you might need will help your boss to facilitate your needs.
- Consult others – if you’re worried about discrimination, then it may help to speak to someone from HR, as there are usually procedures in place that will protect you. It may also bolster you emotionally to speak to someone from HR before you talk to your employer. Furthermore, you could also speak to a trusted colleague – having support at work could provide you with the strength you need to approach your boss.
- Consider the right time and place – think about the best time of the day, as well as the best place in which to speak to your boss. It wouldn’t be conducive to a caring and listening space if the office is particularly hectic at certain times of the day, nor would it be appropriate to discuss it at your desk if you don’t have a private office.
- Take care of yourself – make sure that you take care of your mental health both ahead of and after speaking to your boss. Sleep, a balanced diet, and exercise can have a significant impact on your well-being.
To find out more about caring for your mental health, or to learn about the mental health services provided at HPA/LiveWell in Albany, NY, contact us at 518-218-1188.