Depression. The topic few like to discuss. However, this disease affects many lives and businesses. Depression as defined in the Merriam Webster dictionary:

(1) : a state of feeling sad : dejection (2) : a psychoneurotic or psychotic disorder marked especially by sadness, inactivity, difficulty in thinking and concentration, a significant increase or decrease in appetite and time spent sleeping, feelings of dejection and hopelessness, and sometimes suicidal tendencies

With a definition like this, is it any wonder few discuss this topic. However, opening discussion and creating awareness about depression is necessary for the health of employees and the business’ bottom line. The Journal of the American Medical Association draws the sobering conclusion, that depression costs employers $44 billion a year in lost productivity. Those are strictly indirect costs; and do not begin to reflect medical costs.

Work is a big part of our lives. Depression can affect employees’ abilities to perform their jobs efficiently. The inability to concentrate fully or make decisions can lead to safety risks, accidents or costly mistakes. Other problems can include absenteeism, alcohol and drug abuse, or morale issues.

If five or more of the following symptoms persist for more than two weeks, medical attention may be called for:

  • Sleeping too little, or too much, difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • A persistent sad, anxious, or empty feeling
  • Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in almost all activities
  • Reduced appetite or weight loss or increase appetite and weight gain
  • Fatigue or low energy
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering things, indecisiveness
  • Feeling of worthlessness or excessive guilt
  • Restlessness, irritability

Fortunately, depression is not a life sentence. It is a very treatable condition.

If you suspect an employee is depressed, approach the employee and offer your support:

  • Confront the situation quickly in a caring and gentle way.  Express genuine concern.
  • Be empathetic and non-judgmental.
  • Listen.  Everyone has a story and wants to be heard. Do not try to solve the problem.
  • Provide a solution.  Refer the employee to the Employee Assistance Professional or have a referral to counselors available.
  • Follow up and provide a supportive environment.

In eighty percent of cases, successful treat is possible for people with clinical depression. With recognition, intervention and support, most employees can overcome their depression and push forward with renewed energy.

Vicki Prussak B.A., CWPM, ACE

Certified Wellness Coach


Sources:  Depression. 2013. In  Retrieved April 2, 2013, from

Stewart WF, Ricci JA, Chee E, Hahn SR, Morganstein D. Cost of lost productive work time among US workers with depression. JAMA. 2003 Jun 18;289(23):3135-3144.  Retrieved from