Eight in ten people with depression sufferer discrimination

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Discrimination is a common occurrence in both the private and working lives of those suffering from depression, a new study claims.

The international study, published in The Lancet, involved more than 1,000 sufferers of depression in 35 countries across the world.

It found that almost eight out of ten (79 per cent) reported experiencing discrimination in at least one life domain.

And the findings suggested that in many cases this experience of discrimination is preventing those with depression from enjoying full educational, social and workplace inclusion.

More than a third (37 per cent) of participants said they had stopped themselves from initiating a close personal relationship because of their fear of discrimination, a quarter said it had prevented them from applying for work, and 20 per cent said discrimination had stopped them from applying for education or training.

The study also found that those who were less willing to disclose their depression to others were more likely to experience discrimination.

“Discrimination related to depression acts as a barrier to social participation and successful vocational integration,” said the study’s authors.

“Non-disclosure of depression is itself a further barrier to seeking help and to receiving effective treatment.

“This finding suggests that new and sustained approaches are needed to prevent stigmatisation of people with depression and reduce the effects of stigma when it is already established.”

Meanwhile, separate research released this week has found that the economic downturn has led to a deterioration in people’s mental health – with men particularly affected.

Published in the online journal BMJ Open, the study from the Medical Research Council analysed data concerning 107,000 people taken from the annual health survey for England for adults aged 25 to 64, between 1991 and 2010.

It found that the prevalence of anxiety and depression among men rose from 11.3 per cent in 2008 when the economic crisis began, to 16.6 per cent in 2009.

In comparison, the rate only increased by 0.2 per cent among women, to 16.2 per cent, although starting from a much higher base level.

“One potential explanation for our results would be that job insecurity during the current recession is responsible for the deterioration in mental health with men’s psychological health remaining more affected by economic fluctuations despite greater female labour market participation,” said the researchers.

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9 Comments - Write a Comment

  1. Whilst I totally understand that all individuals needs to be treated equally, if someone has an illness such as depression, they need special treatement.
    You wouldnt ask someone with a broken leg to climb a ladder, so why ask someone with depression to think only about achieving their targets are work.
    Given they have an illness, surely they have to be treated in a certain way to maximise the impact they can make in theor work whilst they get treatment.
    Just as a colleague with a broken leg may get help from colleagues getting around the office, making cups of tea etc, shouldnt colleagues of someone with depression be given some sort of skills/tools to help them be supportive to their ‘poorly’ colleague.

    In my opinion the lack of information/training/advice to support colleagues with depression helps makes this disease the taboo subject that it is.

    As a manager of a big team I would welcome any training I can get to help with what is an increasing problem in the workplace.

  2. As part of my job I have coached people who have had to have a break from work with depression and found that many of them did not want to let their colleagues know why they were off work. I agree with Kuljit that depression should be treated like any other illness and not as a sign of weakness or stigma. I work with teams and teach people to recognise triggers and symptoms of stress, which if not dealt with leads to depression and to deal with this by showing empathy and support for colleagues. This approach works well even with all male teams in a manufacturing environment, where you might expect there to be resistance to the topic. By taking a logical approach and educating people about the realities and causes of stress and depression in the brain I find that people are tolerant and respond much better to the whole topic of depression.

  3. I fully agree with the comments that Kuljit makes on this subject. Government here in the UK should legislate for the protection of mental illness sufferers in the workplace and mandate the training of managers in both the early identification of mental illness symptoms in colleagues and co workers, as well as the basic management of sufferers. Companies too should be mandated to provide the same level of support they would apply to any other critical illness. Depression is an illness and not a taboo…..

    Have we lobbied and campaigned enough to bring this pressure on government, are mental health charities up for this…

    Geoff McDonald

  4. Kuljit, regards training…suggest you contact the mental health foundation, who may point you in the right direction..I have lost 2 friends over the last few years to mental health induced suicide, who had they worked in a more supportive and accepting environment/ society they may still be alive today… It is for this reason, and having been a sufferer myself I would really like to lead some action on this subject..

    Geoff McDonald

  5. A lot of the problem is to do with lack of knowledge and understanding of mental health issues and how they will/won’t affect a person’s ability to work productively. What’s needed is openess, support and discussion involving the whole team.

    Kuljit Kaur makes the comparison with a broken leg, which is an interesting one. We wouldn’t fear discussing our broken leg with an employer/colleague including our limitations as a result of our injury. Yet many won’t open up about a mental health condition because they fear being discriminated against. More understanding of conditions in the workplace is needed to prevent this from happening.

    Kuljit Kaur – There is help available but it’s hard to know where to start. One place that’s good for helping employers/managers deal with employee health issues is the free NHS Health for Work Adviceline (www.health4work.nhs.uk). Might be worth giving them a try?

  6. I am not at all surprised to read this – there is still so much misunderstanding about mental illnesses such as depression. The disabilities caused by these conditions are not immediately obvious and can easily be mistaken for laziness, or lack of interest. Many of the aspects by which people’s perfomance at work is judged are, in themselves, discriminating against people with disability due to mental illness

  7. Geoff McDonald – The Disability Discrimination Act covers mental illness such as depression and offers some protection to employees.

  8. Work-related Depression/Stress resulting in sickness absence or restricting work capabilities is not RIDDOR reportable, even where GP Fit Notes record “work-related” component. There appears to be no HSE intention to address this.

    Also, there is no compulsion on companies to implement the GP recommendations for amended work duties or any requirement for the company to communicate back with the GP as to what they can/cannot implement. HR is not a substitute for a good Occ Health service (and I do not mean a remote service purely dealing with absence management); an appropriate independent advocate is required for mental health sufferers who may be less able to represent themselves than those with physical impairment.

    HSE may not be receiving accurate data regarding absence or company performance; their Management Standards and Stress Inspection Pack may therefore be less effective.

    Companies fare better in that they have fewer RIDDOR incidents on their statistics, thus improving the look of their performance when quoting for work tenders, insurance renewals etc.

    S Parker

  9. I was off work for some time suffering from depression and work related anxiety. It took a complete breakdown before my employers realised that I was depressed. They thought that I was a nasty person because of my mood swings and although I explained the depression for some time it was completely ignored. Had I, as Kuljit said a broken leg then the support would have been a hundred fold. I think that all management staff should go through training in this field to help not only themselves but others in their team. Doing so would help management recognise the sign of depression in co-workers

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