Those who suffer or have suffered from depression will know how hard it can be to carry on as if nothing is wrong, particularly when going into work every day. Often close to tears, it can be difficult to keep it from colleagues, who may think that you are behaving oddly. Some just give up and resign, or go on sick pay in the hope that when they feel better, the job will still be there for them. Here are some tips to ensure that you keep your job, whether you take time off in the meantime or not.
Honesty is the best policy. Whether you tell anyone what is wrong or not, they will undoubtedly know that something is not quite right if you are snappy and continually disappear to the toilets in tears. These days, most people are a lot less judgemental about depression; the chances are that your boss and/or colleagues have suffered from depression themselves. If you tell them what is wrong, they are likely to be a lot more lenient if you occasionally have days when you just can’t make it into work.
Seek medical help
If you are struggling with work, and life in general, and haven’t already, then you should definitely go to see your doctor. You may find that, after a short course of medication or therapy, you feel a great deal better and are able to resume your usual work pattern. Depression is nothing to be ashamed about, and by hiding it, you are only doing yourself more damage. And if you are unhappy with your doctor’s treatment of you, ask for a second opinion from another doctor.
Take time off if necessary
Sometimes all a sufferer of depression needs is a rest and time to sort things out. If you have holiday left, take as much as you can. If you don’t, you should be able to get your doctor to sign you off from work for a couple of weeks. Your mood may begin to lift after just a few days. If it doesn’t, then you should contact your doctor again for more advice. There is never a good time to have time off work. However, pushing yourself to the point of perhaps having suicidal thoughts is no good for anyone either.
If you suffer from long-term depression, it is worth speaking to your boss about working longer hours when you are feeling well, so that you can have time off when you are feeling low. If you work shifts, perhaps you can swap them with other colleagues. If you are seen to be pulling your weight at times, then your boss and colleagues are less likely to feel resentful (albeit unfoundedly so) if you suddenly disappear for days on end.
Contact occupational health
Some bigger organisations have occupational health departments. The purpose of these departments is to ensure that staff with health problems (including mental health) have the correct information and guidance at their fingertips. If you need time off work, they may be able to liaise with your employer and help ease you back into employment on return. If your organisation has no such department, ask your doctor for a reference to an occupational health professional.
Make sure you know your rights
Whether you contact an occupational health professional or not, make sure you know your rights. Provided you have a doctor’s note, your employer should not be able to terminate your employment because you are suffering from depression (or any other mental health problem). However, the law differs from country to country, so make sure you know exactly what you can and can’t do and have the information at your fingertips.
It can be hard when depressed to do anything, let alone standing up for your own rights at work. If that is the case, then make sure that a family member or close friend can help you make contact with the relevant person. Whatever you do, don’t sit there in silence.