More support needed to help people with depression stay at work

End of their ropeAt any one time around 1 in 6 people of working age are experiencing a common mental health condition such as depression or anxiety but a lack of awareness may lead employers to misinterpret symptoms as poor performance, finds a new report from Lancaster University’s Work Foundation.The paper, Symptoms of Depression and their Effects on Employment, recommends that in order to improve both productivity and health and wellbeing among those of working age, more concerted action must be taken to support people with depression to stay in and to return to work. The paper considers the ways in which some of the symptoms associated with depression can form a barrier to employment and calls upon government departments at a national and regional level to commit to improving the provision of evidence-based support to help people with depression.

Authors Karen Steadman and Tyna Taskila explore which symptoms are most likely to affect employment outcomes, and which interventions are seen as the most effective in supporting people who experience depression to remain in or return to work. It finds that the most effective interventions, including a range psychological therapies and specialist employment support services, are not widely accessible, nor available in a timely fashion.

The research also highlighted the generally poor recognition of the symptoms most likely to influence employment – including ‘cognitive symptoms’ such as poor concentration, difficulty with decision making, and negative thinking. Where health care professionals do not recognise these symptoms they may go untreated, while poor awareness of employers may lead to the misinterpretation of symptoms as poor performance.

The report outlines recommendations which seek to increase the awareness and understanding of the symptoms of depression and how they affect job retention and job seeking.

Commenting on the paper, Emer O’Neill, Chief Executive, The Depression Alliance said: “This paper demonstrates the need for training and practical support that can make life so much easier for all. We welcome this report and the opportunity to support employers and employees in developing effective ways to improve well-being within their work place and across the country.”

Commenting on the paper, Professor Stephen Bevan, Director of the Centre for Workforce Effectiveness, at Lancaster University’s The Work Foundation, said: “Negative and discriminatory attitudes towards depression, and mental health conditions in general, can present a considerable barrier to employment. For many people this results in an unwillingness to be open about their health condition and consequently a failure to access appropriate support to manage their symptoms, both in health and in employment settings, which would help them to remain in or return to work. The symptoms of depression currently present very real barriers to working, but by improving access to the right support, and with the right attitudes, they need not continue to be.”