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Nurturing Mental Well-being in the Workplace: Supporting Employees with Depression

5 min read
Last Updated on 21 February, 2024

In today's fast-paced and high-pressure work environment, mental health issues, such as depression, have become increasingly prevalent. As a manager, it is crucial to recognize the impact of depression on your team members and understand how to support them effectively. In this blog, we will explore what depression is, its symptoms, and delve into practical strategies for creating a supportive work environment that fosters mental well-being.

Understanding Depression

Depression is a complex mental health disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. It goes beyond occasional feelings of sadness and encompasses persistent feelings of hopelessness, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, changes in appetite or sleep patterns, and difficulty concentrating. Depression can significantly impact an individual’s productivity, energy levels, and overall quality of life.

Types and causes of Depression

Depression can be caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. There are several types of depression, each with its own set of symptoms and causes. Here are some of the most common types and causes of depression:

1. Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)

This is the most common form of depression. It is characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, changes in appetite and sleep patterns, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, and sometimes thoughts of death or suicide.

The exact cause of MDD is not known, but it is believed to involve a combination of genetic, environmental, and biological factors.

2. Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD)

This is also known as dysthymia, is a chronic form of depression that lasts for at least two years. The symptoms of PDD are similar to those of MDD but are generally less severe.

3. Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is characterized by alternating periods of depression and mania or hypomania. During depressive episodes, individuals experience symptoms similar to those of MDD. The causes of bipolar disorder are not fully understood but likely involve a combination of genetic, biological, and environmental factors.

4. Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression occurs in women after childbirth. Hormonal changes, psychological adjustment to motherhood, sleep deprivation, and social factors can contribute to postpartum depression.

5. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

SAD is a type of depression that is related to the changes in seasons, usually occurring during the winter months when there is less natural sunlight. The exact cause of SAD is unknown, but it is thought to be related to the disruption of the body's internal clock and a decrease in serotonin levels.

6. Psychotic Depression

This is a severe form of depression that is accompanied by psychosis, which includes delusions or hallucinations. It can be caused by a combination of genetic, biological, and environmental factors.

7. Situational Depression

Situational depression, also known as adjustment disorder with depressed mood, occurs in response to a stressful life event, such as the loss of a loved one, relationship problems, or financial difficulties. The symptoms are similar to those of MDD but are typically temporary and subside once the individual adjusts to the situation.

It's important to note that depression is a complex condition, and each individual's experience may vary. If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, it is recommended to seek professional help from a mental health provider for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

Recognizing the Signs

As a manager, it is vital to be observant and attentive to the signs of depression among your employees. (But please note that your role is not to diagnose.)
These may include a noticeable decline in work performance, increased absenteeism or lethargy, social withdrawal, mood swings, or a general sense of unhappiness.

Recognizing these signs early on allows you to take proactive steps towards offering support and intervention.

Fostering a Supportive Environment

  1. Promote open communication: Encourage an environment where employees feel comfortable discussing their mental health concerns without fear of judgment or negative consequences. Regular check-ins and one-on-one meetings can provide opportunities for employees to express their feelings.

  2. Educate yourself and your team: Invest time in understanding depression and mental health issues. Provide resources, such as workshops or webinars, to increase awareness among your employees. This will help reduce stigma and create a supportive culture.

  3. Flexible work arrangements: Consider implementing flexible work options, such as remote work or flexible hours, to accommodate employees' individual needs. These adjustments can alleviate stress and provide a sense of control, which is crucial for individuals battling depression.

  4. Encourage work-life balance: Promote a healthy work-life balance by discouraging excessive overtime and encouraging employees to take regular breaks. Encourage them to engage in activities outside of work that promote relaxation and self-care.

  5. Offer employee assistance programs (EAPs): EAPs provide confidential counseling and support services for employees dealing with mental health issues. Partnering with EAP providers can ensure employees have access to professional help when needed.

Supporting Individuals with Depression

  1. Be empathetic and non-judgmental: Approach conversations about mental health with empathy, understanding, and a non-judgmental attitude. Create a safe space for employees to express their feelings and concerns without fear of repercussions.

  2. Provide resources and referrals: Familiarize yourself with local mental health resources and professionals who can support individuals with depression. Share these resources with your team, making it easier for them to seek help if necessary.

  3. Collaborate on reasonable accommodations: Work with individuals experiencing depression to develop reasonable accommodations that support their well-being and job performance. This may include adjusted workloads, modified deadlines, or temporary role adjustments.

  4. Foster social connections: Encourage team-building activities, both within and outside the workplace, to foster a sense of belonging and social support. Consider organizing wellness initiatives or team outings to strengthen relationships and promote mental well-being.

  5. Lead by example: Show vulnerability and share personal experiences when appropriate. This can help break down barriers and encourage open conversations about mental health. When employees see their managers prioritizing mental well-being, they are more likely to feel comfortable doing the same.


Creating a supportive work environment that nurtures mental well-being is a collective responsibility. As a manager, it is crucial to equip yourself with
the knowledge and tools needed to support employees with depression.

By fostering open communication, providing resources, and implementing strategies that promote work-life balance, you can make a significant impact on the well-being and productivity of your team. Remember, small changes and genuine care can go a long way in supporting individuals with depression and creating a healthier workplace for everyone.

This article is written by Anna Golawski, who is the founder of Stratus Coaching Ltd and is a highly effective post-graduate qualified coach and facilitator. She works predominantly with leaders and managers in both the private and public sectors. She has over 20 years’ experience working for large corporates (including Harrods, IBM and Rolls Royce Aerospace) and brings with her strong HR and commercial experience. Anna specialises in mental health and wellbeing in the workplace and delivers mental health first aid training for clients. For any related queries, contact

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