Depression in the Workplace

High workload and fears of unemployment are driving more and more workers into depression and disability. Statistics show that, almost half of early retired people stopped working due to mental health problems – depression in the workplace was the leading cause.

Depression and other emotional complaints are also playing an increasingly important role in sick leave: they are now the second most frequent diagnosis of all sick leave.

Since 2000, the number of days lost due to depression has increased by almost 70 percent.

Depressed in everyday work

Although annual sick leave has declined on average since the mid-1990s, the number of mental sick leave increases. Much of these mental illnesses are due to depression.

For fear of not getting behind the job and even losing the job, many people go to work even when they are injured. They do not get sick, although they actually need time and rest to recover. The physical complaints are simply ignored.

The body, which is in any case stricken anyway, is exposed to permanent stress due to the pressure of time and performance at work. As a result, employees are finding it difficult to concentrate and the mountain of work is growing. This development is one more reason to go to the office despite the fever and pain. A vicious circle arises, perpetuating depression in the workplace.

At some point, affected workers can no longer meet the performance requirements and mental health problems are added to the physical ailments. The danger of slipping into depression is now given. At least now a sick leave is inevitable.

Why does work make you sick?

The steadily growing number of depressive illnesses has many reasons. Technologies such as the Internet or mobile have changed the scope of work and hours of work in recent decades.

Today, individuals have much more work to do in much less time. Everything has to go faster and workers have little room left for recreation and leisure activities. The necessity for a healthy body rest periods are often too short.

Depressed by overtime

According to a recent survey from, almost every fourth European now has at least six hours of overtime per week due to the high workload.

Many can’t switch off after work, even if they are finally home. Many of the professionals still work in their free time. Three to four overtime hours per day increase the risk of coronary heart disease by 60 percent.

Depressed by permanent availability

As early as 2011, when surveyed by the Federal Association of Company Health Insurance Funds, more than 80 percent of respondents aged 18 to 65 had the feeling that they needed to be available to clients, colleagues and supervisors to be reachable on their mobile phones and even work after work. This long-term burden can make you sick and lead to depressive moods.

Which work makes you depressed?

Many employees often feel exhausted and overworked. Many shift and night workers suffer from sleep disturbances as their body doesn’t lag the postponed daily rhythm.

Frustration builds up in them and they can no longer gain positive experiences of success in their job, but just feel fundamentally overwhelmed. Other symptoms such as joylessness, disinterest, insomnia and loss of appetite are added.

If private problems such as the loss of a friend or family member, partnership conflicts, or fate blows, the overburden can lead to severe depression.

Incapacity to work due to depression

Severe depressions can usually only be treated with powerful medications such as antidepressants. Affected people are no longer able to drive a vehicle or operate machinery. They can no longer pursue their profession and are considered unfit for work.

If the ability to work despite strong treatment of chronic depression is still severely and permanently impaired, those affected can apply for redundancy. Whether a pension entitlement exists, the respective pension insurance of the employee decides.

Recognize mental illness in the workplace

A “first aid” can be to give those responsible security in dealing with the sensitive issue and to help employees in crisis situations in a concrete case. Timely intervention helps to prevent major crises.

Absenteeism can be reduced, and the know-how of the affected employees remains in operation. In companies, everyone should be more open about mental health issues and disorders; because only employees who dare to address a psychological crises at an early stage can be helped on time and in the long term.

It is often colleagues who first observe a change in behavior – sometimes these are the symptoms of a mental illness. These signs shouldn’t be ignored:

  • the person concerned is indifferent or dismissive or even aggressive
  • he is subject to strong mood swings
  • is isolated and closes
  • it shows declining performance or strong performance fluctuations
  • nothing dares to do anything, seems generally uncertain
  • makes many breaks and is conspicuously often ill
  • feels “bullied”, personally attacked or attacks others.

When abnormalities are perceived, it is important to approach the person concerned and respond to the changed behavior, as early intervention by employees and colleagues may prevent more serious consequences such as job loss.

Comments like “Pull yourself together!” at the workplace are completely out of place because depression, anxiety, or alcohol dependence are serious illnesses that can’t be dealt with, with just a bit of effort. Depression in the workplace is a serious issue. It’s critical to get help to overcome this illness.

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