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Depressed during the recession

by - 18 July

Photo by Gabriel on Unsplash
Economic crises constitute a shock to societies with potentially harmful effects to the mental health status of the population, including depressive symptomsAccording to the World Health Organisation, depression has become the leading cause of disability worldwide. A report by the London School of Economics and Political Science and King’s College London in 2014, revealed that although 30 million people in Europe – and 350 million people worldwide – struggle with depression, many workplaces seriously underestimate its impact. Lead researcher Dr Sara Evans-Lacko says the enormous costs of depression due to absence and loss of productivity are set to increase unless governments and employers make it a priority. 

I talked to Dr Sara Evans-Lacko years ago to discuss if the economic crises increase the depression rates in societies and what's the economic cost of depression. 

Dr. Evans-Lacko, what are the symptoms of depression?
The symptoms of depression are complex and may differ between different people. In general, people with depression may feel sad, hopeless and lose interest in things they used to enjoy. It is important to note that to be considered depression, the symptoms must persist for several weeks or months and are significant in that they interfere with your work, social and family life functioning. There is also a range of severity from mild depression to severe depression.

Is there a difference between depression and normal sadness?
Yes. We should not confuse the two as sadness or even grief are normal emotions which we should feel and are important in everyday life. Sadness can come and go and there are still things that people might look forward. Depression is relentless and persistent and people with depression don’t enjoy things they used to and may feel quite pessimistic about the future.

Is there a real correlation between creativity and mental illness?
Some people may use creative tasks / art as a way to deal with their mental illness and externalize and overcome their pain. We know that many artists did have a mental illness and that the prevalence may be higher than in the general population; however, there are also many artists who do not have mental illness.

Is the sense of failure the most common trigger of depression?
There is no single cause of depression. It can develop for different reasons, sometimes a stressful life event or trauma can trigger depression. Some people also carry a genetic predisposition to depression which may make it more likely that they could develop depression. Usually these different factors can work together to trigger depression.

Is there a correlation between depression and suicide?
Suicide has a strong relationship with mental illness, particularly depression. Still there are many people with depression who do not attempt suicide.

Could you give any recommendations how to overcome depression?
The important thing to remember is that we have effective treatments for depression and people with depression make full recoveries. Stigma and lack of access to care can prevent people from accessing treatment. Many people with depression face stigma and discrimination which may make it difficult to get treatment and recover. As a society, we need to be more supportive and inclusive of people with depression, to provide good mental health care and not to be afraid to talk with people with mental illness and support them so that they can feel supported and recover.

Do you have any data how many people in Europe struggle with depression?
Depression affects around 30 million EU citizens.

Does the economic crisis increase the depression rate?
Risks for mental health problems may increase during the economic crisis. Much research shows that unemployment and poverty is associated with greater mental health problems such as depression and suicide. Thus, support for people with mental health problems and for mental health services is important during this time and also we need to make sure that people don’t feel stigmatized or excluded.

What are the characteristics (socio-demographic) of employees who are more likely to suffer from depression?
Our study showed that employees who were female, divorced and working part time were more likely to have depression. University-educated professionals are less likely to take time off work when depressed and, if they do, are reluctant to tell their employer the reason why.

What’s the best strategy managers could use to deal with depressed workers?
Despite a lot of publicity surrounding mental illness, it is worrying to see that there is still a major stigma associated with depression and many employers are not dealing with it adequately. Some managers may avoid the issue and avoiding discussing an employee’s depression is only adding to the general ignorance of mental illness and not helping either the company or the staff member. Being offered flexible working hours and time off can be helpful, but is not necessarily the best strategy in isolation because it doesn’t promote social inclusion, which is what a depressed person needs. A better option to tackle mental illness in the workplace is for managers to offer direct help to depressed employees. Managers have an important role to play by creating supportive working environments that promote social acceptance. By doing so, their employees will feel more secure discussing any potential mental health issues.

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