It's certainly not uncommon nowadays to hear someone utter the words 'I'm feeling a bit down, think I'm depressed" such a statement can often trivialise what can be a debilitating illness.
Depression (1) is a serious medical condition that has a direct, significant and a detrimental impact on how a sufferer feels, thinks and acts.
It is far more than just feeling a bit sad. It is a condition where the sufferer feels negative for a very long time and it affects their life. Many people with depression also suffer from anxiety.
The NHS describes the various symptoms of depression (2). The psychological symptoms of depression include:
The physical symptoms of depression include:
The social symptoms of depression include:
In recent years the stigma around depression has been lifted with several high-profile celebrities such as singer Lady Gaga openly discussing their personal battle with the condition. (3)
Research by the Trade Union Congress (TUC) revealed that less than half of people suffering from depression or anxiety lasting more than 12 months are in work (4). The TUC said the findings showed the government and employers must do more to support mental health conditions.
Employers need to be aware that a worker who has suffered from depression long-term is likely to have what is considered a disability.
A mental health condition is considered a disability in accordance with the Equality Act 2010 if it is long-term, if it lasts or is likely to last 12 months, and has an effect on an individual’s normal day-to-day activity
Normal day-to-day activity’ means performing tasks such as using a computer, working set times or interacting with people.
In recent years there has been an increase in worker’s being diagnosed with work-related stress. The indirect effects of stress can cause depression. The Health and Safety Executive has produced a guide titled stress and mental health at work (5). By now all employers will be aware that workers with disabilities are protected by law in terms of their employment.
Equality law (6) means employers should look to remove barriers and provide extra support to assist a worker with disability, such as clinical depression. This is known as a duty to make reasonable adjustments.
Making reasonable adjustments (6) will ensure that workers with a disability have the same access to everything as non-disabled colleagues.
When the duty arises to make reasonable adjustment an employer is under a positive and proactive duty to take steps to remove or reduce or prevent the obstacles faced by a disabled worker or job applicant.
Adjustments can only be made where the organisation are aware, or should reasonably be aware, of a worker’s disability.