Working from 8 to 5—or even longer—can be hard on the brain and the emotions. Many people in America suffer from work-related depression. Even the most dynamic and exciting jobs can cause serious emotional stress. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mental health problems are common in a wide variety of workplaces, from major forestry operations to fast-paced professional kitchens.
What is job-related depression?
Job-related depression is a complex disorder that is characterized by distorted thinking, changes in mood and changes in behavior. It is precipitated by conditions on the job, but it may also be linked to hereditary or chemical dispositions inside the worker’s brain. A workers’ comp lawyer in Chicago knows that a mentally healthy employee may become severely depressed after facing difficult circumstances on the job such as persistent bullying, serious physical trauma or unsafe working conditions.
How does job-related depression affect workers?
Work-related depression can cause a number of destructive effects. Some of the most common issues include the following:
- Absenteeism or unexplained disappearances from work
- Decreased productivity
- Serious problems with home life
- Functional impairment
- Permanent loss of experienced workers
In extreme cases, job-related depression can even lead to suicide or lethally dangerous behaviors.
Work depression by the numbers
American workers suffer from higher levels of depression than ever before. These sobering statistics from a recent CDC survey show the scope of the problem. Four out of five people with job-related depression face some level of functional or cognitive impairment because of their condition. The financial cost of depression in the workplace is difficult to estimate, but CDC studies show that it causes a loss of up to 44 billion dollars each year. Depressed workers miss an average of five days of work every year because of their condition and struggle with reduced productivity on an average of 11 other days. These lost workdays add up to more than 200 million every year.
Some professions are at higher risk
Not all professions are equally prone to work-related depression. According to statistics compiled by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the highest frequency of major depression occurs in the food preparation industry and the service industry. More than 10 percent of workers in these industries suffer an episode of serious depression each year. In some other industries, such as maintenance, repair, architecture and engineering, the annual occurrence of major depression remains below 5 percent.
Job demands can cause severe depression
Rigid or unreasonable demands on the job can cause depression among workers. Once a depressive episode sets in, the employee is often unable to keep up with the requirements of the job, causing a downward spiral into poor mental health. Supervisors and colleagues may add to the problem with a lack of understanding or sympathy. Studies of depression in the workplace have isolated a number of important factors, including lack of empathy and social support, high demands and low levels of real or perceived control over the work situation. When these factors are present, depression is more likely to develop.
Depression correlates with other job-related illnesses
According to Mental Health America, job-related depression correlates strongly with a number of other illnesses. Employees who suffer from depression because of work conditions are more likely to suffer from diabetes, obesity, heart disease, stroke, substance abuse and eating disorders. The combined effect of depression and associated physical disorders can cost businesses millions of dollars every year.
How can workers and employers fight job-related depression?
There is no easy cure for work-related depression. Some employers have begun pursuing strategies to prevent this problem in the workplace. Free confidential screenings may help cut down on the rate of job-related depression, according to studies published by the CDC. Training workers and supervisors to recognize the telltale signs of depression is also effective in some situations. It is crucial to make sure that workers have full access to mental health benefits through their employer-sponsored health insurance programs.
Options for workers with depression
Job-related depression can cause severe disability and enforced absence from work, as a workers’ comp lawyer in Chicago knows. If a person is unable to come to work because of a depressive episode caused by job conditions, Illinois law provides the right to compensation and medical care during the period of recovery. Every worker has this right, regardless of any pre-existing medical or psychiatric conditions that may be present.
A case study from a Chicago kitchen
During the summer of 2008, a 34-year-old chef in a fashionable Chicago restaurant became severely depressed after a series of traumatic experiences on the job. He had suffered intense bullying and intimidation from his new supervisor in the kitchen for the previous six months. He also witnessed two severe traumas in the workplace, including one incident in which a colleague was hospitalized with life-threatening third degree burns after a large pot of boiling oil was accidentally spilled over his face, neck, arms and hands.
Compensation for depression on the job
The chef was unable to come to work because of severe depressive symptoms. When he had been absent for three weeks, he applied for workers’ compensation and was awarded temporary total disability for the duration of his recovery. After several months off work and intensive psychological treatment, he has recovered and is once again a successful Chicago restaurant professional.
Depressed workers have rights
Workers suffering from job-related depression have the same rights as employees who have suffered physical injuries. People struggling with mental health on the job may find it helpful to contact a workers’ comp lawyer in Chicago.