A current study sheds light on the background of the significant increase in time off work due to mental illness in recent years. So the majority of employees avoid talking about the topic at work.
“If someone is depressed, it is helpful, for example, to avoid working shifts if the sleep-wake cycle is disrupted,” said Professor Ulrich Hegerl of the German Depression Aid Foundation at DLF. This is an example of “how the risk of recurrence can be positively influenced by measures”.
Stephanie Gebert: Statistically speaking, there are employees in almost every company who suffer from depression. What is the responsibility of employers or colleagues when it comes to dealing with patients?
Ulrich Hegerl: I think you can do a lot in companies – on the one hand to prevent unnecessary suffering, but also to reduce costs. Because when people get depressed and they come to work and they can’t perform, there are costs due to being present, but of course people are also on sick leave, which are therefore costs due to absenteeism. And if companies improve the level of knowledge and ability to act on the topic of depression among HR managers, for example, they can talk to people who may be sitting and crying in front of their laptops and no longer go to the canteen, they can talk to those who know how to make such This conversation – thus helping to ensure that they receive professional treatment more quickly. For example, this is a very important thing. Often patients are unsure of themselves, do not have the energy, and do not hope for help. And if someone supports and motivates them, it can be very helpful.
Look for conversations with affected colleagues
donor: You also say in the report that it is about treating it with compassion, which is an appropriate response on the part of the company. What is there?
Higerl: If I were to see someone change now, not doing well, looking very sad, and I am a colleague or perhaps a manager, then I would ask them to come into a quiet corner and ask them how they are doing and this way it works and when I have some information about the symptoms of depression, after a while I might An inner feeling that I don’t have to make a diagnosis, but an inner feeling that there may be something more than a conflict at work or another, perhaps also private problems. And if I have this feeling, I would advise the person to seek treatment.
And for this I have to know who is actually responsible, you have to know the responsible doctors and psychotherapists. These are the specialist doctors, these are the psychiatrists, and then there are the psychotherapists. They are not all psychologists, only psychologists who also worked in psychiatry, that is, who saw patients. They have good training in psychotherapy and can, like doctors, bill the health insurance company, which means that the patient does not have to pay anything. Then there are family doctors. Most people who are treated in an outpatient setting for depression are treated by family physicians. You can then advise these people to go there and make a diagnosis and – if disease is present – it should be treated.
The reason to work?
donor: Now I said in the beginning that it is important to have knowledge about being able to recognize the different symptoms. I found it surprising that you also found in your survey the amount of misinformation about depression, for example when it comes to the causes.
Higerl: Yes, most people think that depression is primarily a reaction to difficult life circumstances – and this is understandable. But depression is a more obvious disease. Most people who become depressed at work do not become depressed at work, often having been depressed before they started working. Many then get sick again, perhaps when they retire, because the deciding factor is disposition. And if you’re unlucky enough to have such a willingness, you keep slipping into that very special state of depression, even if you’re actually doing relatively well, on the outside. It is not easy to understand, because if I slip into depression now, depression looks around, so to speak, what is negative in my life – and always finds something in each of us. And when you work, this is often the work – then this problem is amplified and transferred to the center. Then you think that’s the reason. It is very difficult to understand.
donor: I also said that it is important to find the right advice, so to speak, to find the right specialist. The idea of peer advice within a company, for example, is also interesting. What is behind it?
Higerl: Every illness is a private matter, you do not have to share depression with your colleagues and superiors, you have to think twice about whether you want to do it. If there is a good relationship of trust, sometimes it is best to do so. Many also reported that they received very positive feedback and that it was a relief not to have to maintain this interface anymore. One way to make this step easier is actually with peer counseling, where we trained group depression buddies. These are the contact people, the low-threshold contact people for people with a feeling they might be depressed. This is going well, we initially thought that no one would be available as a peer counselor, but very good and caring people have come forward and are now acting as peers.
Depression is largely a separate disease.
donor: What can the company do preventively to prevent depressive illness?
Higerl: The idea that by reducing stress, for example, you can prevent depression in the first place, I’m going to put a little question mark on it. Often times more is promised than is actually possible. As I said at the beginning, depression is largely a separate disease. It’s quite obvious that an unfavorable work climate destroys our quality of life, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get depressed. But if someone is depressed, it is helpful, for example, to avoid shift work if the sleep-wake cycle is confused. This is an example of how the risk of recidivism can be positively affected by measures. But sometimes it may also be useful, if the depression is not severe, to reduce the workload and maintain a working rhythm. Sometimes she works, working conditions allow, and some patients are grateful for this, because they do not lie in bed at home, but have a certain handrail during work.
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