Depression at Work: How to Recognize the Signs and How to Help


Depression isn’t always easy to catch. There’s a stigma surrounding depression that leads people to believe that depression is not being able to get out of bed, or hiding in a dark room all day, or never smiling and laughing. While these can be considered as signs of depression, there are also many symptoms that are harder to recognize, and just as worrisome.


 Recognizing depression in the workplace can not only help those are struggling to receive professional help, but it also ensures a safe work environment for each employee as well. According to the World Health Organization, anxiety and depression will cause around 12 billion lost work days from the years 2016 to 2030. These two disorders are also costing nearly 1 trillion dollars in lost productivity around the world. Being able to detect the signs of depression in the workplace will help lower these staggering numbers, and prevent a coworker from fighting depression alone. If you suspect that you or someone you know is struggling with depression, take a look at the list of symptoms below.

1. Consistently making excuses

 In most cases, individuals struggling with depression tend to avoid situations where they’re forced to talk or be around other people, or complete tasks that their depression hinders them from completing. If you notice that an employee or coworker is constantly making excuses for not being around others, for not coming into work, or for completing difficult tasks, it could be a sign that they are struggling with depression. It’s important to pay close attention to this symptom, and ensure that the individual doesn’t begin isolating themselves completely.

2. Accidentally revealing how they feel

 Living with depression is overwhelming. Oftentimes, those who struggle with depression bottle up their emotions, and sometimes might end up admitting that they need help without anyone noticing. They might reach out and reveal that they’re struggling in an unconventional way, and then take it back before anyone has the chance to act upon it. It’s crucial to recognize these warning signs in the workplace, and take someone’s admission seriously, even if it might seem like a joke.

[Are you struggling with depression or know someone that is? You’re not alone. Speak to someone by reaching out to the Calgary Distress Centre, open 24/7.]


3. Showing concern for everyone but themselves

 It’s very common for someone who’s struggling with depression to show extra attention to friends, family, or coworkers and how they’re feeling, but to not show any attention to their own feelings. Individuals with depression tend to isolate their emotions from anyone else, not allowing anyone to see how they actually feel. If a coworker shows concern for how you feel, be sure to return the favour, and if they seem guarded about how they feel, recognize that this could be a hidden sign of depression.

4. Increased irritability

 Sometimes depression might mask itself into looking like something different. An increase in anger or irritability is actually a tell-tale sign that someone is struggling with depression, though many people believe that depression presents itself as sadness or detachedness. A depressed individual might express an attitude towards others that is of annoyance, impatience, or aggression. Not only is this symptom dangerous for the individual, but it’s also dangerous to everyone in the workplace, as increased anger or aggression can cause workplace accidents/injuries. If you notice that another seems to be more irritated than usual, acknowledge that this could be another hidden sign of depression.


5. Feeling neutral - not happy, but not sad

 Oftentimes, those who are struggling with depression feel an intense sense of emptiness that doesn’t seem to go away. It’s hard to determine if you’re feeling sad, or depressed, or if you feel anything at all. If you feel this way, or if you notice that someone you know expresses that they don’t feel happy, but don’t feel sad, this might be a very important hidden sign of depression that is crucial to watch out for.

More than 300 million people struggle with depression worldwide, and it is currently the leading cause of disability. As of now, depression causes 200 million lost work days each year, and can cost employers between 17 to 44 billion dollars each year. If you feel that you’re suffering from depression, it’s important to know that you’re not alone. We at Precede hope that these hidden warning signs allow you to recognize when someone is struggling with depression, and that the opportunity to get help is available.

 If you think that you might be depressed, please reach out to someone you trust, whether that be a friend, family member, or a professional. No one should have to struggle in silence.

To learn more about how Precede Occupational Health Services can help you and your organization, click here.