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Depression: Let’s Talk

Lynette Rambo | April 11, 2017 

Are you depressed? You’re not alone.

1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433)
1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)
Text Line: Text HOME to 741741
State Crisis Hotlines
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
International Suicide Hotlines

Let’s Have the Conversation

The theme for this year’s World Health Day (April 7th) was “Depression: Let’s Talk.” On World Mental Health Day last October, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched a one-year global campaign to bring greater awareness to the subject of depression, which affects millions of people worldwide every year.

Depression is a topic very close to my heart and one that has impacted my family and me personally. I’m not ashamed to admit that I have taken antidepressant medication for almost 20 years. And I’ve walked through depression with various family members and friends. Sadly, I’ve also experienced the loss of several friends and colleagues due to unmanaged depression and suicide. That’s why I’m willing to talk about the topic to anybody, anytime, anywhere. If it helps just one person in my lifetime, then it’ll have been worth it.

At the core of the WHO campaign is the importance of talking about depression as a vital component of recovery. The stigma surrounding mental illness remains a barrier to people seeking help throughout the world. Talking about depression helps break down this stigma and can lead more people to seek help.

The Statistics Behind Depression

It’s estimated that more than 300 million people are now living with depression. Statistics show that it is the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide, especially in low-and-middle income countries. One staggering figure reveals that the number of people living with depression jumped 18% between 2005 and 2015.

In a 2009 study, The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) cited that employee depression cost American businesses a total 225 million workdays and $36.6 billion per year. The WHO Regional Office for Europe estimates that up to 50% of chronic sick leaves in European countries are due to depression and anxiety. And the cost of mood disorders and anxiety in the EU is about €170 billion per year.

The American Psychiatric Association states that depression affects an estimated 1 in 15 adults (6.7%) in any given year. And 1 in 6 people (16.6%) will experience depression at some time in their life. It often first appears during the late teens to mid-20s, and women are more likely than men to experience depression.

NAMI Infograph: Mental Health Facts in America

What is depression?

According to the World Health Organization, depression is an illness characterized by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities that you normally enjoy. It is accompanied by an inability to carry out daily activities for two weeks or more.

Depression has many faces and degrees. It can be mild, major, persistent, bipolar, manic, seasonal, postpartum, or even psychotic. It may accompany other disorders, as well — such as anxiety. While not everyone who is depressed experiences every symptom, one or more of the following symptoms — provided, in part, by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) — often accompany depression:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
  • Decreased energy or debilitating fatigue
  • Moving or talking more slowly
  • Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
  • Appetite and/or weight changes
  • Thoughts of death or suicide or suicide attempts
  • Inability to let go of things that have happened in the past
  • Anger management issues
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Unexplained aches and pains

The NIH further states, “Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the U.S. Current research suggests that depression is caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors.” Risk factors cited include personal or family history, major life changes, trauma, or stress, certain physical illnesses, and some medications.

Depression in the Workplace

Depression doesn’t just affect the individual and his or her family. It also has significant impact on employers and the economy.

A 2009 study by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that, “… depression is one of the costliest health problems in the labor force. [Major depressive disorders have] been associated with a 27-times greater likelihood of work loss (including sickness absence days and decreased productivity) than among workers without a mental disorder.”

Given this clear link between depression and work impairment, the study concludes that employers share the associated economic and productivity burden. Improving the quality of depression care for employees represents an opportunity for employers that translates into increased Return on Investment (ROI) in human capital.

What can employers do?

First and foremost, employees need to feel that they work in a safe environment — physically, mentally, and emotionally. Alert and compassionate employers and co-workers can literally save someone’s life. I can personally attest to that. If it weren’t for an alert executive recognizing the signs of depression and providing immediate intervention for one of my family members, they wouldn’t be alive today.

Here are some things employers can do:

  • Be aware of your employees and how they’re doing. Have an open-door policy so employees can discuss their concerns.
  • Don’t be afraid to discuss the topic of depression in your company.
  • Offer employees voluntary screening programs or even access to onsite medical professionals.
  • Be each other’s keepers, and don’t be afraid to reach out if you suspect someone is in crisis.
  • Promote overall worker health and wellness, including good health benefits.
  • Provide access to an employee assistance program (EAP).
  • Provide managerial and employee education on how to deal with a depressed or suicidal colleague.
  • Work to destigmatize depression so that employees aren’t afraid to ask for help.

A 2014 Job Satisfaction survey by The Conference Board revealed that more than half of U.S. workers are unhappy with their jobs. Understand your employees’ strengths and challenges. Provide career assessment and additional training opportunities. Employers who listen to and strive to meet their employees’ needs will not only have happier employees, but will benefit the company’s bottom line.

An Example from Salesforce

I work for ListEngage, a longtime services partner for Salesforce. So, I was very happy to see the live webcast that Tim Clarke, Sr. Director of the Sales Cloud for Salesforce, hosted this past January. In this webcast, Ask Better Questions — And Maximize Productivity, Clarke interviews Tim Ferriss, an innovator, bestselling author, and host of The Tim Ferriss Show, one of the top podcasts on iTunes. While the major portion of the webcast was on the topic of maximizing productivity, Clarke and Ferris also discussed depression and mental health.

Clarke: Mental Health is something that’s not talked about a lot, and I know today we’re focusing very much on productivity, but there’s an obvious tie-in. If you are really struggling with stuff in your personal life or professional life, it really hits you.

Ferriss: They’re all inter-connected, and at the end of the day, you also have to ask, “What am I trying to achieve so much for?” Let’s assume for the moment it’s to improve your quality of life. If you are struggling with depression or anxiety, that negates the practical value of your achievements, of your income, of fill-in-the-blank accolades, so it’s very important to tackle that piece and account for it.

Tim Ferriss has been very open about his own battle with depression, and I’m glad to see companies like Salesforce not afraid to broach the subject of mental health.

If You are Struggling With Depression

If you are struggling with depression, you have hope! Depression is treatable. I and various family and friends of mine are living proof of that. There are many support options and treatments available. Please don’t be afraid to talk about it and ask for help.

While I’ve written from the standpoint of personal experience and research, none of what I’ve said in this post should be taken as medical advice. If you need help, please contact a medical professional, family member, friend, or someone that you trust. Or, call or text one of the Hotline numbers listed below. Help is just a phone call or a click away.

1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433)
1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)
U.S. Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741
Find your state’s Hotline: on this page
International Suicide Hotlines
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

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Lynette Rambo

Lynette Rambo | Marketing Consultant

Lynette Rambo is a Certified Email Marketing Specialist and a Marketing Consultant for the Salesforce Marketing Cloud. She has over 20 years of marketing, communications, design, and public relations experience for both small businesses and larger corporations. As a Marketing Consultant for ListEngage, Lynette consults clients on email marketing best practices, strategic planning, content creation, campaign management, and provides training and demos on the Marketing Cloud. She also works with the Salesforce CRM and connecting Sales and Marketing initiatives. You can contact Lynette at lrambo@listengage.com.