Opinion — 11 January 2018

Photo source: The Border Mail

I recently read an article on Entrepreneur.com that said something that made me think. Dennis C. Miller wrote ‘depression isn’t a character flaw.’ Yet so many of us see it as exactly that: a flaw, a weakness, something to be ashamed of.

According to the World Health Organisation, the total estimated number of people living with depression worldwide increased by 18.4% between 2005 and 2015’ with numbers now exceeding 355 million across the globe. Just to put that into perspective, that’s more than the entire populations of the United States of America and Australia combined.

Articles online talk about how depression and anxiety is still taboo, and perhaps it is, but it is also becoming more understood as the conversations that we have (like this one) continue -it’s not about saying ‘hey it’s ok to be depressed,’ it’s about ensuring that more people ‘understand’ what being depressed actually means and how it can impact a person – and how that person can be supported to continue working and making a difference in their space.

I have recently seen a number of medical questionnaires from recruitment processes and people do still have to acknowledge whether they have even so much as sought medical ‘advice’ about psychological or psychiatric issues in the past.

I understand why this is asked (I used to work in recruitment and understand the need for disclosure), but from the candidate’s perspective this constant need to ‘disclose’ any prior mental health issues can be a source of great anxiety. I personally know people who have refused to seek help for what was clearly a mental health crisis because they didn’t want the ‘blot on their medical history’. When people are afraid of how such a crisis could impact their future employment more than their current ability to manage their situation, we need to rethink how we are tackling this issue.

Depression and work stress are increasingly going hand-in-hand as people struggle to manage career demands. Executive level managers are experiencing a noticeable rise in depression and anxiety with their experiences of increased responsibility, and external performance pressure being considered potential triggers. Research out of the US indicate the middle managers are also at an increased risk (up to 11pc in their research sample) due to their experience of external pressure to deliver results without the executive level authority to make decisions that will impact their ability to succeed. Lower level employees are at risk of depression through bullying, work-life imbalance, job insecurity and long hours. 

However depression is triggered, nowhere in the research does it state anything about it being a personal failing. A weakness. A flaw. There is no shame in acknowledging a broken arm. There should be no shame acknowledging the experience of depression and seeking help. 

This piece by Zoe Wundenberg was originally published on ‘The Border Mail’ 10 January 2018.

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