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Four Ways to Support an Employee with Depression

· Managers,Career Success,strategy

Dear People Ops:


What is the best way to support an employee who has disclosed struggling with depression? What is an appropriate level of accountability for a depressed employee and in what ways can we accommodate? Thanks!

Over 18% percent of American adults suffer from a mental, behavioral or emotional disorder. And employees battling one of these disorders are less likely to seek support due to fear and shame. The result? Employees suffering from untreated depression cost employers more than $44 billion per year in lost productivity.

Clearly, it is critical for companies to figure out how to destigmatize mental health – for the wellness of their employees and the wellness of their company. Here are four places to start.

Company Culture

Frequently, rather than disclosing their challenges, an employee will choose to hide their illness, for fear of judgement or being viewed as different. Build a culture that destigmatize depression, encourages self-screening and helps connect employees in need with the appropriate resources.

JPMorgan Chase, IBM and DuPont were early adopters of progressive mental health policies. DuPont, for instance, has a program called ICU Mental Health that encourages employees to notice signs of emotional distress and reach out to coworkers who might be having problems. During the program’s first year, the number of employees using mental health services grew at least 15 to 20 percent.

Management Training

The first person an employee is most likely to disclose to is their manager. But supervisors often are not trained in how to respond to such information. They frequently are not aware of the requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act or even of their company’s policies regarding accommodations. Train your managers and give them the information and tools they need to support a team members who discloses to them.

Know the Law

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), passed in 1990, prohibits discrimination in hiring and firing decisions based on physical and mental disabilities and entitles people to “reasonable accommodations” from their employers. In the case of mental disabilities, these fixes may include flexible working hours, access to a quiet area and additional feedback from supervisors. In many cases, the modifications cost little to no money and can make a big difference to employee happiness and productivity.

Mental Health Benefits

Remember, you provide one of the most critical tools for managing mental, behavioral or emotional disorders – access to good healthcare. Make sure the benefits you offer your employees provides comprehensive coverage for these needs, and encourage your team to take advantage of them.


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