’Tis the season to reach out to coworkers


LoriBurneyDepression in the workplace is “real, devastating and treatable”

By Lori Burney | LiveWell Greenville development director & National Alliance on Mental Illness certified support group facilitator


The holidays are a lonely and stressful time for many people. In the midst of the joy and celebration, many individuals are grieving the loss of a loved one, spending more money than they make, or seeking happiness in our materialistic society. Sadly, there are many among us who are hurting, in danger, and need our help.

Each day we enter the workplace and sit next to them. We join them for lunch meetings and coffee breaks. They are camouflaged in their suits and ties, skirts and high heels, hiding behind their iPads and laptops.

“All around us, people suffer,” says Dr. Martha Durham, a licensed psychologist at North Main Counseling in Greenville. “No matter what you think you know about a person, you just can’t really know what they carry. You can know absolutely that suffering is universal. It is a part of the human experience.”

Now that the holiday season is upon us, mental health in the workplace is an important issue to consider. In most cases, depression is caused by problems outside of the office, but personal issues often influence one’s attitude at work. Depression can negatively impact an individual’s job performance, as well as the mood and productivity of coworkers.

“It is real, devastating and treatable,” says Durham. “If you get nothing else from this, understand that there is help.”

Screen Shot 2014-12-03 at 11.11.29 AMWhile obvious signs of depression include crying, explosive outbursts and erratic behavior, less recognizable symptoms include withdrawal, indecisiveness, forgetfulness, fatigue or a general lack of interest and motivation. We all have days when we experience any one of these symptoms, which doesn’t necessarily mean we are depressed. But when several of these indicators continue for weeks, it’s important to address the problem to determine if depression is the issue.

“Tragically, some of our brightest stars suffer silently and do not ask for help,” says Durham. “That is not the right path. There is no glory in suffering silently. There is no victory in appearing to be happy, successful and perfect.”

Screen Shot 2014-12-03 at 11.11.33 AMIf you are an employer and notice signs of depression in an employee, it’s best to be supportive. While you are not qualified to determine if the employee is in fact suffering from depression, you do have a responsibility to address any problems that may interfere with job performance.

To ensure that employees stay healthy and happy, it’s good to offer proper working conditions within an environment that maintains a comfortable room temperature, adequate lighting and no unnecessary or distracting noises. In addition, employees are more likely to find happiness in the workplace if you:

– Are supportive and positive in your daily interactions

-Provide well-defined performance expectations and proper guidance

-Recognize individual achievements and overall success

-Give staff the opportunity to use and develop their best skills

If you are personally experiencing signs of depression, ask for help. Check to see if your company offers an employee assistance program or other resources, and consider a visit to your family doctor or a counselor.

“If you feel shame in your pain, know that people like me are trained to help you, to teach you, and to keep your confidence,” says Durham. “We are here to help you survive the pain, so you can feel joy and happiness again.”

The foods you eat also will influence your mood. In order for your brain to function properly, your body needs proper nutrition. In addition, regular exercise has been proven to decrease depression and to provide a boost in energy.

Most importantly, don’t stop working! Continue to accomplish what you can on the job, even if it’s only minor tasks. Although you may be tempted to call in sick and spend the day in bed, it will only increase your depressed state. The majority of people suffering from depression can receive successful treatment without taking any time off from work.

When you consider that a full-time employee spends one-third of his or her workweek at the office, it makes sense that the work environment can have a tremendous impact on an individual’s mental health. Under the right circumstances, time spent at work can actually reduce depression by providing a daily routine, serving as an outlet for social interaction, offering an opportunity to be productive, to feel a sense of accomplishment, and to experience success. Ultimately, a positive work environment can contribute to an individual’s happiness.

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