Depression is a silent epidemic in the US. An increasing number of people exhibit symptoms of clinical depression, which interfere with all aspects of their life including their work. Depression in the workplace is one of the biggest contributors to job failure and creates massive costs for companies. Workplace depression has a number of identifiable causes, but no clear-cut solution, primarily due to the sensitive nature of handling depression and psychological illnesses. However, the current approach, or lack there of, when it comes to dealing with workplace depression is ineffective and does nothing to address the consequences it creates in terms of job success and costs to companies.
Workplace depression is a prevalent and constantly growing problem in the US. At any given moment, up to 20 percent of the workforce in the US is dealing with clinical depression, whether they know it or not (Riegger 14). This statistic is larger than the total percentage of people in the general population that suffer from depression, indicating there is something unique about the workplace that is intrinsically tied to depression. Additionally, workplace depression has consequences, both for the individual suffering from depression and the employer. Workplace depression causes losses in productivity, morale, and affects many other areas of a workers attitude that contribute heavily to job failure (Hilton). For example, depression hurts an individual’s ability to handle decision-making and problem solving vital to job success. “When you are stressed, your brain works differently. You are more likely to resort to "all or nothing" thinking, causing difficulties in solving problems, resulting decreased productivity” (Olson 10). This inability to engage problem solving creates even more frustration and can contribute to lack of motivation and ultimately leads to job failure.
Beyond the consequences to the individual suffering from depression, workplace depression creates massive costs for employers. The combined effects of depression in the workplace, including absenteeism and declines in productivity, have an estimated total cost of up to 60 billion dollars annually to companies (Riotto 37). Each individual employee that suffers from depression in the workplace creates an estimated $3,000 in losses for their company (Riotto 38). Additionally, about 60 percent of people that suffer from depression are not receiving treatment. This number is indicative of the US population at large, not just the workforce, but it gives a sample as to what the realities of workplace depression are like (Riotto 40). Many people do not even realize that they are suffering from depression, and of those who do, the large majority is receiving no treatment. This is a testament to the silent nature of this psychological epidemic.
There are several root causes that contribute to the onset of depression and its manifestation in the workplace. It is first important to broadly define the term depression to understand what individuals who suffer from the illness are exhibiting. Psychological definitions and benchmarks that attempt to pinpoint the onset of clinical depression vary. However, defining depression based on it’s symptoms as they relate to the workplace creates a proper understanding for the purposes of evaluating it’s causes and consequences. “Clinical depression is the loss of focus, the loss of control, the feeling of worthlessness, the inability to sleep and the one we all see and experience, irritability" (Riegger 14). All of these symptoms are the result of several causes and stressors acting together, and these symptoms each play a role in contributing to job failure.
A lot of workplace depression is caused by factors present at the workplace itself. Work overload is a common complaint among workers today, and it has “been recognized as the prime determinant of emotional stress” (Solyu 131). In addition,…