How to Deal with a Depressed Coworker


Depression as a medical condition spares no one, including your co-workers. Though at first glance, your fellow employee may look happy and healthy whilst chances may be high that he or she is suffering from depression. Most people are afraid to let their colleagues or superiors know that they are depressed for fear of being seen as weak, or due to the fear of jeopardizing their careers. Moreover, the stigma associated with depression prevents people from opening up about their condition.

According to Mental Health America, the U.S. economy loses $51 billion due to the lost productivity and absenteeism linked to depression. Direct costs of treating the condition also gobble up another $26 billion. The good news is that at least 80 percent of depressed persons can be treated successfully, enabling them to continue from where they left.

How to Know if your Colleague is Depressed

Most depressed individuals still summon all their energies and head to work; after all, bills must be paid. Therefore, absenteeism alone isn’t a sufficient pointer that your fellow worker is battling depression. However, by checking for the signs below, you can find out whether your co-worker is depressed and deal with him or her accordingly.
• Fatigue or feeling tired all the time
• Irritability, anxiety and restlessness
• Memory difficulties and weaker decision-making ability
• Loss of interest in tasks previously enjoyed
• Constantly sad and moody
• Increased isolation and avoidance of fellow co-workers
• Noticeable weight loss or gain
• Finding it difficult to multitask or meet deadlines
Once you confirm that your co-worker is exhibiting most if not all of the above signs of depression, you can approach him or her to try to find help. Approach him or her carefully, as depressed people are sensitive and prone to anger quickly. The fact that it is much easier to provoke a person at work than at home doesn't make things any easier.

How to Approach your Depressed Co-worker

At times, the depressed co-worker may deny that he or she is suffering from the condition. On the other hand, the person may feel happy inside to know that you cared enough to talk to him or her about the condition. Make sure you bring up the conversation when the two of you are alone together. A few questions to ask a depressed co-worker include;
• I have noticed you haven't been yourself of late, is something wrong?
• I have noticed that you seem so moody nowadays; do you feel like talking about it?

Dealing with a Depressed Co-Worker

Depression like any serious medical condition needs professional help. While it makes sense to ask your co-worker to see a psychiatrist, your help, understand and encouragement can help your colleague recover much sooner. Learn to listen attentively without interrupting; your co-worker may feel much better after confiding to you. Also show him or her that you care by surprising them with a gift that he or she likes. A surprise weekend getaway can also help. Furthermore, always call him or her after work to enquire how he or she is doing. Knowing that you care goes a long way towards boosting your co-worker’s self-esteem and accelerates the recovery process.


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