If you’re anything like me, managing clinical depression and trying to excel at work is a pervasive challenge. While discussing mental health in the workplace has become more common, it still carries a certain amount of stigma. It’s disorienting, scary and difficult — so what can you do?
Take Advantage Of Employee Assistance Programs
Many workplaces have Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) that offer a variety of services and resources, including confidential mental health support. The best part? These programs are often contracted by your workplace, meaning the people you get help from are not a part of your organization. For me, this makes me feel more comfortable reaching out because I feel my confidentiality is more secure. The mental health support can vary, but it often includes resources to balance your health and work issues. To find out if your employer offers an EAP, contact your human resources representative or, if you prefer a more anonymous approach, check out your employee website.
Consider An Accommodation
While most people relate the term “accommodation” with a disability protected under the Americans With Disabilities Act (which, by the way, covers clinical depression), it actually has a much broader context in a work environment. In some cases, there might already be a workplace policy in place to address the type of accommodation you might need (e.g. flextime). In other cases, you might consider sharing your concern with a supervisor or your HR representative, who could support you in making some changes to manage your health and work.
If you choose to share with a supervisor or your HR representative, have a plan: make sure you can explain the area at work where you’re having trouble and have an idea of what you would need to get the job done.
Tip: Be sure to weigh the pros and cons of opening up to a supervisor but know that in most cases, you do not have to disclose your diagnoses and an employer is not allowed by law to ask you. Instead, you can use general terms like “I’m a managing a chronic health condition."
Be Patient With Yourself
If you’re dealing with depression and maintaining a job (along with other responsibilities like family and friends), you’re dealing with a lot. I mean a LOT. Try giving yourself a little leeway and do what you need to do to get better. It might mean seeking professional help, considering medication, talking to a friend/partner/family member or taking a sick day (or two). Whatever it is, remember that you’re not alone in this struggle (even though the depression will try to convince you that you are) and help is available — even at work.
If you need support managing depression, consider the following resources:
Jennifer Koza is a social worker who believes support and empowerment are key to life — and has the data to back it up. By day, she is a research and evaluation analyst, committed to preventing violence against women and studying the value of work and workplaces. By night, she is a painter — or at least she tries to be when she's not catching up on t.v./movies (or re-watching The West Wing, Gilmore Girls or The Office).