Toll of depression at work highlighted

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A third of people struggle to cope at work because of depression, stress or burn out, according to a survey.

Some 83 per cent of those affected experience isolation or loneliness as a result, the study found.

The research involving 1,200 people across the UK also found that only half of those feeling lonely or isolated had confided in a colleague, yet nearly three quarters (71 per cent) found that discussing their condition with a colleague helped them feel better.

The survey, published by Depression Alliance as part of Depression Awareness Week, reveals the high numbers of people affected by depression at work, and highlights the need for employers to take action to recognise the condition better and to support affected staff.

A new report, Depression in the Workplace in Europe: new insights from business leaders, highlights how several major UK companies including Royal Mail, Barclays and Unilever are tackling depression, by implementing new policies to enable structured support and processes for affected workers.

Tim Munden, vice president HR, Unilever UK, said: “At Unilever we firmly believe that addressing depression through our mental health policies benefits both our business and our employees. We aim for a 10 per cent reduction by 2015 in work-related mental ill-health cases and 
working days lost to mental ill-health.”

Emer O’Neill, chief executive of Depression Alliance, said: “Depression is the biggest mental health challenge among working-age people and often leads to considerable loneliness and isolation at work.

“However, many companies aren’t properly equipped to manage employees who suffer from depression so providing support to these individuals in the workplace is essential.

“We have just launched Friends in Need, ( which provides anyone with depression with a free and easy way to connect, either online or by meeting in groups and taking part in local activities, all of which help stop the feelings of loneliness and isolation.”