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James Arquette


Commercial Director

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Blog: World Mental Health Day – How to deal with depression


British workers are apparently the most depressed in Europe.

According to a new study, the Impact of Depression in the Workplace in Europe, one in four British workers (26 percent) will take time off work for depression – compared to around one in ten across Europe. 

We’re also likely to be off work for longer, and the same study has claimed that Britons will take 41 days absence compared to a European average of 36. At first glance, these finding are … well, pretty depressing. But a number of experts have been quick to claim that the situation is not as bad as it might first appear. 

Instead, these figures could be the result of better reporting in the UK. If true, then it suggests this particular cloud could have a silver lining – particularly if it means that that we are getting better at recognising the signs of depression. 

Or that depression, which is undoubtedly a dreadful experience for anyone, carries less of a stigma in the workplace than it perhaps once did. But this certainly does not mean that we should consider these findings as being a job well done in our collective ability to recognise depression. 

What this study proves is that, irrespective of our ability to recognise and report it, Britain faces a sizeable problem of depression in the workplace. 

What to do?

This is troubling, particularly if the Depression Alliance is right in that these new figures only represent the “tip of the iceberg”, and that many employees still try to suffer in silence rather than admit issues of depression they fear will be detrimental to their careers. 

What this study does is underline the importance of employers properly recording absence, training their managers, and having policies in place that deal with stress or depression related absence. 

This includes compulsory return to work interviews, as well as risk assessments that make sure an employee returning from a depression-related absence is not thrown back into the deep end and immediately put under pressure that could result in further prolonged absence. 

Employers must also make sure they are pointing their employees towards any external support services they need. 

Headlines of ‘one in four’ British workers being depressed inevitably grab the attention. The truth is a bit more complicated, and it is certainly not as black and white that British workers are more susceptible to depression than European workforces. 

But, still, this report should be food for thought for all employers and their management teams.

James Arquette is commercial director at absence management service provider, FirstCare.

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James Arquette

Commercial Director

Read more from James Arquette

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