Depression has been named as one of the top three barriers to a womanâ??s success in the workplace, according to a recent survey among 2 800 working women across South Africa.

Respondents rated depression – alongside child-care responsibilities and bureaucratic structures – as a primary barrier to career success and 66% of women said it hampered their overall job performance.

The online survey, which was conducted by one of SAâ??s leading providers of central nervous system (CNS) pharmaceuticals, Pharma Dynamics, found that depression may be the culprit behind absenteeism and workplace blunders among women who have experienced its symptoms.

Depression interfered with work in various ways

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Almost 65% of women reported that depression caused them to be quiet and reserved, and 41% said they were more prone to making job-related mistakes due to lack of concentration and sleep.

Mariska Fouche, spokesperson for Pharma Dynamics says itâ??s not just perfectionists and workaholics who tip over the edge.

â??Depression is an issue that is becoming more evident in SA, following widespread retrenchments that have left the remaining staff to cope with impossible workloads, too afraid to object, for fear theyâ??ll be next in the firing line.â?

Forced to work overtime, increased responsibilities at home

â??With more women working overtime and on top of that still having to deal with child-care responsibilities at home, it is no surprise that many are teetering on the brink when it comes to their physical and mental health. Putting in more than an eight-hour day, five days a week, makes you twice as likely to suffer from depression and anxiety.â?

â??Women are also more prone to burn-out and depression, because they are more likely than men to be people-pleasers, who often ignore their own needs,â? says Fouche.

Nearly 40% of women surveyed admitted to suffering from depression 

According to the survey, 33% felt unable to face work, 29% generally avoided contact with other colleagues and almost a quarter of the sample (22%) said that they took more sick leave as a result of symptoms related to depression.

One in ten women reported having resigned from or lost a job mainly due to symptoms of depression.

Symptoms of depression

â??Itâ??s important,â? says Fouche, â??to note that depression is not merely feeling sad because youâ??ve had a bad day at work.â?

â??Depression is prolonged and severe despondency and dejection, usually accompanied by feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy. It is a mental condition that manifests itself typically in a lack of energy and difficulty in maintaining concentration and an interest in life.â?

Only a small number seek help

Of the 1 057 women diagnosed with depression, only 464 are currently being treated, of whom 65% are on medication and 35% are undergoing psychotherapy.

Reasons given for not seeking treatment included work-related time constraints (31%), medical aid not covering treatment costs (24%), fear of what people might think due to the stigma associated with depression, because it is often seen as a sign of weakness (23%), not knowing where to go to for help (16%) and fear that they might lose their jobs as a result (6%).

Stigma attached to depression

â??Besides the personal struggle, women living with depression also have to deal with other peopleâ??s perceptions of depression – many of which arenâ??t true. Even though the stigma associated with the condition is decreasing, it continues to be a major factor in preventing women from seeking help.

â??What you choose to share in a workplace setting, however, is controversial when it comes to depression. If you tell your colleagues that you suffer from depression, you could experience a combination of social stigma and discrimination, or get passed over for a promotion, but hiding signs of depression can be stressful too,â? she warns.

Fouche shares the following advice, should you decide to broach the topic with colleagues:

• Wait for an appropriate time to share your experience of depression, such as lunchtime or at an office social when the topic of discussion is generally not focused on work.

• Donâ??t judge yourself – this only perpetuates a negative social stigma.

• Help friends, family and colleagues gain a greater understanding of depression. Reinforce that it is normal behaviour and how they can help.

• Try to always exhibit control and responsibility, especially when sharing your experience with depression with colleagues or your boss.

• Take control by seeking the right help.

• Surround yourself with positive people who understand what you are going through and are supportive.

Managing depression

â??One of the best ways to manage depression is to stay positive and vigilant about your condition. Recognise different patterns in your mood, avoid setting difficult goals, participate in activities that make you feel better, and donâ??t expect to just snap out of it. It is important to connect with people who understand depression and what the recovery process involves.â?

These findings were released as part of Pharma Dynamicsâ?? ongoing public education and advocacy efforts for mental wellness in SA.

Seek help 

Those suffering from depression or anxiety can contact Pharma Dynamicsâ?? toll-free helpline on 0800 205 026, which is manned by trained SADAG counsellors who are on call from 08h00 to 20h00, seven days a week.