Understanding the Problem

At certain times in our lives we all experience sadness, low energy and bouts of negativity brought on by difficult events such as the death of a loved one, divorce, loss of employment, or physical illness. It’s normal to feel distress during these challenging periods. If left unresolved, our personal grief and unhappiness can grow. The sadness can become constant, all pervasive, and begin to take over more and more of our lives. People in therapy have described the depression as: “a wave of spreading grayness;” “a cloud that suddenly settles and won’t pass;” “a pit of grief.”

Left untreated, depression can be incapacitating. Worse, it can lead to suicide. Within five years of experiencing a major depression, an estimated:

  • 25 percent of the sufferers will attempt suicide
  • 10 percent will take their own lives.

Research is not clear whether the cause of depression is biological or environmental or a combination of both factors. What is clear, however, is that depression is a social problem affecting all areas of life including the workplace. Depression is responsible for decreased productivity and absenteeism, morale problems and even alcohol and drug misuse, because people will try to self medicate in an attempt to free themselves of depression.

An estimated $44 billion in potential profits is lost each year due to depression. Ironically, it is often the very structures of the work environment, such as low pay, lack of employee self worth, unemployment, down-sizing, and disempowerment that help feelings of depression thrive.

Unfortunately, the very nature of depression — feelings of hopelessness, negativity, worthlessness, and exhaustion — can interfere with a person’s ability and willingness to get treatment. Additionally, the use of medication — society’s catch-all cure for depression — is simply not enough.

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