Understanding signs of depression important

by Staff Writer

Published: October 16,2000

There are many different things that can cause depression, but no matter the reason, it is important that employers as well as employees know the signs of depression

and ways it can be treated.

Sonya Summerlin, a licensed marriage and family therapist and the Jackson outreach coordinator at Memorial Behavioral Health, said depression can manifest itself in

physical problems such as head- and stomachaches, fatigue and irritability, causing increased absenteeism and tardiness at work.

“A lot of times people feel they just can’t get up,” she said.

Employers may experience decreased productivity with employees who are dealing with depression. Heightened irritability may also become noticeable because

people may become angry with or less tolerant of other people when depression sets in. But more often than not, a depressed employee will simply lose interest in

work.

“Obviously they’re not doing their best,” Summerlin said. “They’re not as capable an employee as they can be. It just turns work into another negative part of their

life.”

Frequent crying, unexplained nervousness, poor self-image, alienation of co-workers, friends and family and lack of energy are also signs of depressions. At home,

they may have a change in sleep patterns, sleeping too much or not at all.

Employees can become unreliable to the point they lose their job or are demoted because they cannot follow through on deadlines and other requirements. Or they

could simply quit their job altogether.

Social withdrawal is another result of depression.

Left untreated, depression can lead to a person losing everything they have.

“I’ve worked with people who literally couldn’t get themselves out of bed,” Summerlin said. “You don’t want to get up, you don’t want to face the people who mean

the most to you. It actually can just take away your whole life.”

By far the deadliest results depression can lead to are thoughts of suicide and self-mutilating behavior.

Some of the causes of depression include the death of a spouse, job loss, financial problems, interpersonal relationship problems, changes in life and the death of a

child, according to Summerlin. But, she said, different people view things in different ways. What could be the cause of depression for one person might not be a cause

for another.

“Some people interpret going to the beach as stressful,” she explained.

The first thing Memorial Behavioral Health does to help people who are suffering from depression is to offer a free assessment in order to determine the level of their

depression. Some may need a support group or outpatient therapy, while some may require hospitalization.

Patients admitted to the hospital are treated on an individual basis by psychiatrists and social workers. Referrals are also made to the appropriate outpatient providers

or support groups when necessary.

Those who are suffering from depression have several options. They can call Memorial Behavioral Health or another hospital or clinic, or a suicide hotline. And if they

are involved in a church, they can seek pastoral counseling.

But one thing offered by many companies, which seems to be helping, are employee assistance programs (EAP).

EAPs are set up through companies for employees and are either in-house or outside the company walls. Some employees have a confidential number they can call if

they’re having problems dealing with issues at home at work.

Michele Bunch, a licensed professional counselor (LPC) and a certified alcohol and drug counselor, is the administrator of the EAP at MEA Cares. Until 10 years

ago, EAPs were unheard of in Mississippi. Today, they are commonplace.

“Employers realized personal, family and emotional problems affect as much or more than physical problems,” she said. Therefore, companies contracted with public

and private entities in order to provide benefits to people.

The main benefit EAPs provide is counseling. Companies decide how many sessions an employee will have, and they can use the EAP at no cost for that set number

of sessions. EAPs also do educational seminars for employees.

Counseling through EAPs is completely confidential, and is not just for employees but for their families as well, Bunch said.

Those who may need counseling more than others include those who deal with the public on a daily basis, according to Bunch.

“The public can be so rude and so demanding,” she explained. “(The public doesn’t always) think of them (the employee) as a person.”

A second group of people who may need counseling are those who work with large corporations where a constant anxiety of being purchased, merged or downsized

exists.

Christal Warren, LPC, is a certified eating disorder therapist and a therapist with MEA Cares. She said there are a few things employers should keep in mind when

dealing with an employee or employees who are or may be depressed.

“A lot of times it’s good to just share concern with that person,” she said. “The best thing to do is offer solutions for them. Have some kind of solution or referral and

don’t just point out a problem.”

Said Bunch, “The employer can use an EAP as a management tool, and if they observe behaviors that may indicate depression like fatigue, inability to focus or

concentrate, swings of emotion or lack of motivation, they can make a formal request than they (the employee) take advantage of the counseling.”

The only time MEA Cares reports to an employer is when they make a management referral and the employee comes in and signs the release, she said.

Contact MBJ staff writer Elizabeth Kirkland at ekirkland@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1042.

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