Let’s give you some facts. The total number of cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2013/14 was 487,000 (39%) out of a total of 1,241,000 cases for all work related illnesses, the number of new cases in 2013/14 was 244,000 (Source HSE Labour Force Survey 2014). The statistics also show that the number of cases have remained broadly flat over the last decade. Even so, that quantity is still concerning and it clearly shows that there are an amount of people that are brave enough to let employers know that they are experiencing undue pressures or demands made upon them. I believe outside of that the figures are unknown because of the silence shrouded in the places we work.
I do not feel it will bring any value to this blog to list the causes of depression. However, it is important to highlight that these behaviours determine how we relate to one another and what is expected by the organisation on how results are delivered.
If I asked you to list the behaviours, performance levels and give views on people you work with, you would be able to freely make comments based on what you have seen and heard whether it is evidence based or your own professional/personal opinions, we all get to know each other over time. Even pre Homo-erectus we used these abilities and skills to recognise changes in behaviour of individuals or groups in the need to survive or work in partnerships. These skills are even used by animals, Charles Darwin was one of the first scientists to write about the existence and nature of emotions in nonhuman animals and over the years several cognitive tests show optimism and pessimism in a wide range of species including rats, dogs, cats, rhesus macaques, sheep, chicks, starlings, pigs and even honeybees. From this we can ascertain that we all have these inner instincts to recognise when people are displaying behaviour outside of their norm. Ever asked someone you work with if ‘they are ok?’
Given we all have these skills and abilities I believe that we must be brave enough to use them to support our fellow colleagues. The moment we realise there may be something wrong we need to take action. So how can you help? Before you start you must commit to building trust and the only way you can do that is by being consistent and discreet. Discretion is key to giving respect to the person you are concerned about and this is a very personal issue so you must tread carefully.
I am not asking you to fix the world only recognise and support. If the issue is wider than that there are professional medical bodies that can assist. Speak to your line manager they will be able to help and support too.Below I have created an advice sheet on how you can help further. I must stress if at any point you feel that you are unable to help please let someone else know that you are concerned about your colleague. Do not keep silent.
And please remember, build trust, show consistency and be discreet.