How can I help a colleague with depression?

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geekygent

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#1
A colleague of mine has recently been diagnosed with depression. I am her engineering team leader (meaning I organise and review the technical work she does, but I'm not her boss). It is clearly affecting her quite severely in her work and general life, but I don't know what I can do to help her, or whether I am likely to make the situation worse.

This individual has confided in me that she has been diagnosed with depression, to explain why the standard of her work has dropped. I've tried to lend a supportive ear, but she doesn't want to discuss any further than that, so I don't really understand the cause, what she's going through, or what medical advice she is seeking. I don't want to probe if she doesn't want to talk, but it makes it difficult to understand how I can help.

In previous companies I've worked at I would have pointed her to the HR or occupational health department, so she could talk to someone confidential and competent, but my current company is very small and employs no HR staff. I've tried talking to my boss, who feels equally impotent, but the more people I talk to, the more I feel I'm betraying her confidence. The last thing I want in a small company is for more people than necessary to know that she is having these issues.

I've agreed with my boss that this person can work mostly from home, which she says is helping slightly. I'm also trying to help her out technically as much as possible, to give her low pressure work and pick up some of the slack myself. However, if her work continues to be degraded, I'm sure upper management will eventually become dissatisfied with her performance, which I obviously want to avoid.

Can anyone help suggest what I can do differently to improve this situation?

Many thanks in advance!
 
BorderlineDownunder

BorderlineDownunder

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#2
A colleague of mine has recently been diagnosed with depression. I am her engineering team leader (meaning I organise and review the technical work she does, but I'm not her boss). It is clearly affecting her quite severely in her work and general life, but I don't know what I can do to help her, or whether I am likely to make the situation worse.

This individual has confided in me that she has been diagnosed with depression, to explain why the standard of her work has dropped. I've tried to lend a supportive ear, but she doesn't want to discuss any further than that, so I don't really understand the cause, what she's going through, or what medical advice she is seeking. I don't want to probe if she doesn't want to talk, but it makes it difficult to understand how I can help.

In previous companies I've worked at I would have pointed her to the HR or occupational health department, so she could talk to someone confidential and competent, but my current company is very small and employs no HR staff. I've tried talking to my boss, who feels equally impotent, but the more people I talk to, the more I feel I'm betraying her confidence. The last thing I want in a small company is for more people than necessary to know that she is having these issues.

I've agreed with my boss that this person can work mostly from home, which she says is helping slightly. I'm also trying to help her out technically as much as possible, to give her low pressure work and pick up some of the slack myself. However, if her work continues to be degraded, I'm sure upper management will eventually become dissatisfied with her performance, which I obviously want to avoid.

Can anyone help suggest what I can do differently to improve this situation?

Many thanks in advance!
don't get me wrong - but unless this girl is super talented or reliable, shes a dud employ who wll suck you dry.

Ive suffered from depression for decades and I cant work any more although I did for years

We used to HIDE depression and go to work anyway. People were severely depressed during the war, half of them were petrified and malnourished, still they trooped of to work in droves because all the men were gone.

Depresson is a strange beast that becomes worse when you nuture it.

This young lady is already changing your work morale to a point where the others will down tools and demand to work at home too.

I suggest shes in no fit shape to be at work, at all. Treating her indulgently is possibly the worst thing you can do.

No one indulged Winston Churchill who suffered horrific depression yet still managed to save the Western world pretty much single handed. He got out of bed every day because he HAD TO.
 
6

6ofusathome

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#3
I sort of agree with BDU and sort of think it is too harsh. This woman might struggle for a few months and then with medication be able to come back and be a wonderful employee. I think writing her off too soon is unfair. I had 14 years of absolutely no depression. 14 years of being a VERY high capacity person. So maybe just maybe another month is what she needs. I think you have gone beyond what would be considered required and as a depression sufferer I say "thank-you for your kindness to her".

I do agree that depression is a beast that when fed can get worse. And that if this goes on for a long period of time this employee may prove too much a burden for the company and need to be let go.

I think all you can do right now is continue to verbalize your encouragement to her.
 
BorderlineDownunder

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#4
its not a perfect world its a Workplace, where you have to take pains to treat everyone the same.

If this girl already has an automatic hall pass, someone is already upset about it.

Your other staff are affected by this girl like it or not. You are either posting as her carer, or as her boss. you simply cannot do both, it isn't fair.

Also some young women are absolute genius at Getting What They Want. Your girl has done very nicely indeed in the Change the Work Conditions stakes and is still unhappy.

Theres a good chance she was born depressed and will just keep taking. No judgement, I have seen the type, worked with them also. I once worked with a woman who got 6 paid weeks off work for heart surgery that she never had. How did she do it? because she was so precious no one dared question her to the details.
 
Binca

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#5
You are a true gent. It is good that she isn't confiding too much to her male sort-of-boss as that might be inappropriate, but you need a bit more information don't you. She may be avoiding the problem as in trying not to think about it or the future. I expect she is trying to cope and trying to keep her job. I hope that she gets better and back to work and this all resolves itself.

If she has been diagnosed with depression, i think she might be protected by the disability discrimination act which i know hardly anything about. Citizens advice bureau may be able to help you with that if you need more information. She may end up going sick from work for a while or long-term. If she starts to show signs of not coping or taking sick days here and there, maybe she should take a couple of weeks off, take a break, and then return on what is called a graduated return.

She is probably seeing her GP regularly and they may have talked about time off sick. It is good that she is continuing to work so hopefully she will be fine. Stress and pressure will be bad for her at the moment so try not to overwhelm her with anything if you do talk about it again. You could ask if she has seen her GP casually, and what the plan is, but i have a feeling you are not allowed to ask her anything as this could be considered hassling her. Again i don't know the official words but play it by ear and get some more information from your side of things as you may need it. Hopefully you won't.
 
burt tomato

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#6
I think you have done a good job helping her. Personally speaking for myself as someone with mental health issues, and a work history in technically demanding jobs, working from home would be a dream come true. I think it would help enormously. Although I admit there would be the temptation to slack off.

I think the best way to deal with it, is to see it as a disability issue. In the UK under the Equality Act 2010, if a mental disorder is beyond 12 months, it is classed as a disability. So if this is the case, then she is disabled.

It is a shame there is no HR dept.

I think at the moment, people with mental health issues suffer enormous stigma in the workplace, because it is an invisible illness.
 
BorderlineDownunder

BorderlineDownunder

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#7
A colleague of mine has recently been diagnosed with depression. I am her engineering team leader (meaning I organise and review the technical work she does, but I'm not her boss). It is clearly affecting her quite severely in her work and general life, but I don't know what I can do to help her, or whether I am likely to make the situation worse.

This individual has confided in me that she has been diagnosed with depression, to explain why the standard of her work has dropped. I've tried to lend a supportive ear, but she doesn't want to discuss any further than that, so I don't really understand the cause, what she's going through, or what medical advice she is seeking. I don't want to probe if she doesn't want to talk, but it makes it difficult to understand how I can help.

In previous companies I've worked at I would have pointed her to the HR or occupational health department, so she could talk to someone confidential and competent, but my current company is very small and employs no HR staff. I've tried talking to my boss, who feels equally impotent, but the more people I talk to, the more I feel I'm betraying her confidence. The last thing I want in a small company is for more people than necessary to know that she is having these issues.

I've agreed with my boss that this person can work mostly from home, which she says is helping slightly. I'm also trying to help her out technically as much as possible, to give her low pressure work and pick up some of the slack myself. However, if her work continues to be degraded, I'm sure upper management will eventually become dissatisfied with her performance, which I obviously want to avoid.

Can anyone help suggest what I can do differently to improve this situation?

Many thanks in advance!

im wondering about some sort of addiction issue

sorry yall think im being so harsh but this girl IS NOT PERFORMING even with a supportive boss and perfect work conditions (on her sofa) her work is simply not good enough, she wont elaborate nor be open about her treatments if indeed she is accessing any at all.

A small company simply cannot afford to carry this sort of dead wood.

IMHO she needs a complete leave of absence to get her head together, complete with (perhaps company paid) therapy.

As it is shes barely doing her job and other people are enabling that.

No company works efficiently or well when one of the springs are broken and Someone In Charge just makes the others work twice as hard to make up for it instead of putting in a new spring.
 
burt tomato

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#8
I think what BDU is saying - is revealing the harsh reality that is prevalent in many workplaces. But it is mildly fascist, and besides this is a mental health problem, and we are here to support our cause.

Also the workplace is not perfect. When I worked in software, sometimes you are treated very poorly. You become some sort of nerdy zombie. I can do my job well, but I have been locked out of the market since my diagnosis got upgraded.

Why can't the disabled work as anyone else.
As far as I am concerned this lady has been treated well by you OP, and now it is in her interests to work on her recovery, and improve her quality of work (to her old standard). Maybe you need to talk to her about this.

I am not expecting her to produce her best work, but if she was recruited by your company and was capable of it in the past, then she should be able to reproduce that same quality in a given time.
 
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Tonic

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#9
It is so lovely to read how compassionate you have been towards this employee.

(So many people in your position would write depression off as feeling a little sad. It is great to read how you are taking her problems seriously.)

I agree with Burt Tomato in that she won't be able to be fired due to the Disability Discrimination Act.

You have made a good effort into making reasonable adjustments for her (as required by law). All you have to do is make reasonable adjustments. I think you have done this by letting her work from home. Any more that this might be deemed unreasonable. She has a job to do. She is physically able to do it. It is her responsibility now to accept medical help and attend therapy.

In fact, most employers would say a reasonable adjustment would be to allow the employee to attend their therapy appointments, giving them unpaid time off to do so. Most would not go so far as to allow them to work from home. So you have been generous. (I would only say someone could work from home if they were physically unable to travel to work if they, for example, were taking medication which meant they couldn't drive, or if they were contagious.)


I have a serious mental health issue that I do not talk about or ever mention at all at work. Therefore I have to go to work no matter what. I sometimes need more time to complete work to my usual high standard so I will work at the weekend without getting paid for it to keep up, when needed.

I agree with what most people are saying about "feeding depression by taking care of it". It can be a slippery slope.



Do not pick up her slack. If she falls behind, make sure she knows she has to put more effort into it or else she risks being laid off.


I also agree with BDU, in that she could possibly have an issue she doesn't want to talk about that she is calling 'depression'. This might be family problems, money problems or anything else.



Other options she might want to explore could be: reducing her hours, working part time.
 
Jaminacaranda

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#10
I'd also like to congratulate you on being so considerate and caring. I'd also like to point out that given the state of the working market and the attitudes of employers right now, the only things that count are productivity and profit and that affects employees who are entirely healthy just as much as anyone who isn't.

It's a cut-throat world, it's as simple as that. Companies need to make a profit in order to survive. I've worked in jobs where my performance in contributing to profit mattered and it was as simple as that - if you couldn't perform - no matter what the reason - the company couldn't afford to keep you on.

If the employee you are talking about can still contribute to the overall success of your company whether working from home or part-time or whatever, I don't see an insurmountable problem for your company. As BDU suggests though, there comes a time when people who are suffering from MH problems have to accept that they aren't capable of working FT or in the same capacity that they used to.
 
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geekygent

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#11
Thanks all for your responses; that has given some really good food for thought.

Thanks again!
 

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