The mental health of Canada's workforce is in need of a close look. Twenty-two per cent of Canadian employees say they currently suffer from depression, according to an Ipsos Reid survey. Another 16 per cent, meanwhile, say they have experienced depression in the past.
The good news behind these findings is that more managers are now better equipped at handling workplace depression than they were in 2007, Mary Ann Baynton of Great-West Life Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace noted.
"In 2007, only one in five [managers] had received any training on how to intervene with emotionally distressed employees; now one-third do," she said in a press release.
But that's still not enough. Jan Wong, columnist and author of 'Out Of The Blue: A Memoir of Workplace Depression, Recovery, Redemption and, Yes, Happiness,' suggests human resources employees still need more education around mental health.
"I really think human resources folks need some fundamental training. They need to be educated about mental illness. As soon as they see a behavioural change, they have to do something," she told the Huffington Post Canada in May.
The Public Health Agency of Canada lists 17 symptoms of depression, including insomnia, appetite change, and distancing from family and friends. The agency urges anyone experiencing at least five symptoms for over two to three weeks to contact a doctor. Anyone experiencing recurring suicidal thoughts should seek help immediately.
However, symptoms may become difficult to perceive as mental health stigma still persists, particularly in the workforce. The survey also showed that one in 10 Canadians believe depressed people choose to be depressed.
The Ipsos Reid survey continues earlier research from 2007 and 2009. It analysed 6,624 online surveys, 2,317 from supervisors and the remainder from employees outside of management positions.Are you in crisis? Need help? In Canada, find links and numbers to 24-hour suicide crisis lines in your province here.
"I would first of all start paying attention to my sleep," says Wong. "Like right now I'm not getting enough sleep and if I thought the symptoms were coming back then I would make sure I go to bed early." Lack of sleep and depression are highly correlated, with some studies noting that <a href="http://healthland.time.com/2010/09/02/lack-of-sleep-can-cause-depression-weight-gain-and-even-death/" target="_hplink">a previous anxiety disorder can be worsened when sleep is lost</a>.
"I would cut back on activities -- I would say no to a lot of things so I wouldn't be running around so nutty trying to do too many things," says Wong. Taking on too much, especially while trying to recover, can easily make someone feel overwhelmed.
See Friends And Family
"My husband was amazing," says Wong. "A depressed person is not very much fun to associate with, and there's often a lot of misunderstanding because your perceptions are skewed when you're depressed." That makes it all the more important to see those who will offer emotional support and reassurance.
Do Something Meditative
"I'd cut my lawn or go and weed my garden," says Wong as an example. Other tasks that are deeply absorbing and meditative include knitting, playing music, or of course, literally meditating.
"I'm not an exercise freak, I don't go to a gym and I hate running," says Wong. "But I would go for walks, I would do something that's sports-related. Get away from your computer and start doing something." Multiple studies relate <a href="http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsweek/Exercise-and-Depression-report-excerpt.htm" target="_hplink">exercise with helping to alleviate mild to moderate depression</a>, and even as a support system for severe depression.
Help Someone Else
"Go and help somebody who needs help and it's the giving of that which gives you serotonin in your brain," says Wong. "It's actually a really good thing to do -- you start helping somebody who needs it, like a poor person or sick person. And it's cheap too!"
Wong found that travelling took her away from the stresses of her work battle and gave her an opportunity to relax and eat, which she wasn't doing at home. While not a permanent solution, travel can give your mind a break from everyday tasks and add perspective.