Corporate pressures can worsen depression

The sparkling holiday festivities and all the revelry at this time of year can bring people closer and be a time of joy. But it can also add tremendous stress and anxiety on top of an already too-busy schedule.

Ironically, this happy time of year can be the worst time of year for the over 11 million adults suffering from depression. That means that one out of ten people are experiencing some form of depression. The Mental Health Association reports that over 60 percent of them contemplate suicide (often around this time of year), and more than half of the 30,000 suicide deaths in the U.S. are attributable to depression. It takes its toll on corporate America as well, since almost $44 billion each year in medical services, reduced productivity and earnings are lost to suicide. But despite it's prevalence, costs, and often fatal outcome, depression frequently goes untreated.

"People tend to ignore the symptoms," Karen Robison, President of the Mental Health Association in Milwaukee, observed. "They tend to think it's a sign of weakness to seek help. They think they should just be able to pull themselves together. For instance, in the case of an employer without an AP (Employee Assistance Program) an employee is forced to either go to their regular physician and admit they’re depressed or ask to be referred to a mental health provider. People resist doing that."

Robison emphasizes that getting treatment for depression doesn't mean you're mentally ill. "This time of year always creates extra tension. Most families have their share of dysfunctional behavior and that, combined with a tendency to indulge in too much alcohol and overeating, can aggravate anyone. In addition, the lack of light in most of the northern states can add to the problem and really send you into a tailspin," she says. "And if you have a family history of depression, you are particularly susceptible."

Robison also commented that companies add to the problem by getting frenetic in December. For instance, employers push projects to closure: the budget must be complete, the books must be closed out, employee evaluations and salary increases must be finished. This long series of "musts" simply add to the personal list of "musts" we all impose upon ourselves as the holidays approach. She adds, "And career women who have typically made their peace with Martha Stewart during the rest of the year, seem to renege on their pact during the holidays and try to do it all."

It's important to distinguish between the normal feelings of sadness we all experience now and then and the profound hopelessness of major depression. Are you wondering if you, or someone close to you, has the symptoms of major depression? The National Mental Health Association says that people with major depression typically have poor self-esteem and a gloomy view of the future. They often complain of physical aches and pains for which no medical explanation can be found.

When psychiatrists examine people for depression, they look for nine symptoms. They make a diagnosis of major depression if a person has had five or more of the following symptoms for more than two weeks or has considerable impairment in normal functioning:

·        Feelings of sadness or irritability.

·        Loss of interest in sex and activities once enjoyed

·        Changes in weight or appetite

·        Changes in sleeping patterns

·        Feeling guilty, hopeless, or worthless

·        Inability to concentrate, remember things, or make decisions

·        Fatigue or loss of energy

·        Restlessness or decreased activity noticed by others

·        Thoughts of suicide

There are many degrees of depression and it differs greatly among people, both in severity and duration. Some experience only one episode during their lifetime; others experience recurring episodes. Still others have anxiety attacks along with depression. In any event, depression can be treated in 80 to 90 percent of the cases, according to the Mental Health Association. If you think you may be experiencing some degree of depression, call your local Mental Health Association (In the Milwaukee area (414) 276-3122) or the National Mental Health Association (703) 212-0010.


Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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