Workplace Depression: Awareness Better but Stigma Persists

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By HCMag | January 12, 2012 11:05 AM EST

Australian workers have a high level of awareness about depression and anxiety disorders but insufficient training is provided on how to help or identify a colleague who is experiencing depression, according to a recent survey.

The survey of 18,000 professionals was conducted on behalf of BeyondBlue and found one in four people don’t feel comfortable working closely with a person experiencing depression.

Just half (51%) of those surveyed said they would feel comfortable managing the work performance of someone with depression or an anxiety disorder.

“It's great news that professionals are becoming more aware of depression and anxiety disorders - but it is vital further work is done in this area," BeyondBlue Deputy CEO, Clare Shann said.

The survey found that training and a previous experience with mental illness were the two most important factors in helping workers deal with an ill colleague.

Deloitte’s national partner of people and performance Alec Bashinsky said best practice includes providing mandatory training for all managers. “[Training should be provided] on how to identify depression in employees and more importantly how to support and coach those employees into also seeking help,” he said. “Flexible working structures and environments also help support employees going through depression.”

Bashinsky said training should be part of any mandatory induction processes and that case studies should be discussed to help managers understand the scenarios that exist and what solutions have already been put in place.

The survey found those aged 20 to 29 to be the least likely to be proactive in helping a colleague with depression and may even stigmatise someone experiencing depression.

By sector, engineers and those working in property were the least likely to show understanding. Many cases of depression and anxiety go undiagnosed, largely due to the stigma that often surrounds those conditions.

“When you look at the brain, it’s like the pancreas or any other organ in the body. If parts of it aren’t working, then I think people should feel comfortable with visiting a clinical psychologist. But society judges that,” performance coach Andrew May said.

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