More support needed for depressed staff, say managers

One European employee in 10 has missed work because of depression, equating to more than 21,000 working days being lost, with UK workers among the most depressed of any European country, a poll has suggested.

The Impact of depression in the workplace in Europe audit survey, by the European Depression Association, also found that depression was the predominant mental health challenge among working-age people, after polling more than 7,000 people and finding 20% of respondents had received a diagnosis of depression at some point.

The rate was highest in Britain (26%) and lowest in Italy (12%). Among workers experiencing depression, those in Germany (61%), Denmark (60%) and Britain (58%) were most likely to take time off work, while those in Turkey were least likely to do so.

The costs of depression were estimated at €92 billion in 2010 in the EU, with lost productivity due to absenteeism (taking time off work) and presenteeism (being present at work while ill) representing more than 50% of all costs related to depression. The average number of days taken off work during the last episode of depression was 36 days, with Germany and Britain having the highest (41 days) and Italy (23 days) the lowest.

Approximately one manager in three of those surveyed reported there was no formal support in place to help them deal with depression in employees. This lack of support was highest in Germany (44%) and lowest in Turkey (10%). Managers in Britain were most likely to have support from their HR department (55%), while managers in Turkey were most likely to receive support from a medical professional (79%).

Some 43% of those surveyed called for better policies and legislation to protect employees. When asked what respondents felt was needed to help support employees with depression in the workplace, managers most often cited more counselling services and better government legislation and policies.

Managers in Britain generally wanted better access to counselling services (56%), while German managers prioritised line manager training (53%).

Simon Lawton Smith, head of policy at the Mental Health Foundation, argued the findings showed the need for boardrooms to take a lead on the issue: “Until employers put mental health on their board’s agenda and tackle the stigma and negative perceptions around mental illness, many employees will simply not be prepared to take the risk and disclose their health condition.”

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