Expert says job stress may lead to depression

August 26, 2013 - 2:48:48 am

‘Fear of stigma and dismissal prevent many from seeking help’

Senior Consultant Psychiatrist at Hamad Medical Corporation, 
Dr Suhaila Ghuloum.

DOHA: About 18 percent of the population in Qatar suffer from depression, a common psychological disorder, and a large number of such cases are associated with work related stress.

Working people, especially those aged between 20 and 34 are at higher risk for depression, according to Dr Suhaila Ghuloum, Senior Consultant Psychiatrist at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC).

“Repeated work stress doubles the risk of depression,” said Dr Ghuloum. 

Shame and the fear of stigma and dismissal prevent many people with depression from seeking help, and the majority of those with depression try to mask their mental health difficulties to avoid workplace discrimination.

People suffering from work place stress and depression need support from their colleagues and their bosses to cope with their situation.

Dr Ghuloum explained that stress at work can be caused by poor leadership, a hostile work environment, difficulty in achieving work-life balance, “job strain” or high job demands and low control over how the job gets done, and job insecurity. 

Symptoms of depression include a persistent low mood, disturbed sleep, poor appetite, fatigue or physical complaints, irritability, poor self-esteem and feelings of hopelessness. People who have depression may also resort to substance abuse. 

Depression is the third most significant workplace problem after stress and family crisis, according to the Employee Assistance Professionals Association. 

At work, depression – which doubles the risk of stroke and coronary artery disease – may manifest in poor concentration, less productivity, more errors or accidents, tardiness, slowness in accomplishing work or missing deadlines, less motivation and enthusiasm, more complaints, difficulty in making decisions, problems with colleagues, isolation, and more sick leaves. 

The expert emphasised the importance of promoting a culture of health, particularly mental health in the workplace, through educating leaders and employees, having guidelines for employee intervention, reducing stress at work, and offering employee assistance programme.

There is also the need to remove the stigma associated with depression, which may be based on certain myths, for instance, that depression is a weakness or for people who lack faith, or that a person just needs to “be stronger” to get over depression.


Manager’s role


She urged managers to encourage employees who have depression to seek help, and to offer reassurance and reasonable flexibility at work to enable the person to better cope with stress. 

She also mentioned ways co-workers can support colleagues who have depression, such as by emphasising the person’s value in the workplace and encouraging the person to seek help, avoiding blame, listening without judgment, and respecting the privacy of the person. Death wishes must be taken seriously.

Effective management of workplace stress and work-related depression promotes better productivity among employees, less sick leaves and better retention of skilled employees, therefore less turnover and recruitment costs for the employer, said Ghuloum. Treatment for depression, which may include counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), problem-solving, solution-focused therapy and medication, can improve symptoms for workers.

Depression can affect anyone, regardless of gender, age, and social, educational or economic status, and may be caused by a variety of factors including genetics, chemical imbalance, personality, physical disease and stressors. 

“Men are less likely to seek help, and are more likely to complain of sleep disturbance and to turn to substance misuse. However, depression is twice as common in women, and there are more self-harm attempts and more physical complaints among women who have depression,” said Dr Ghuloum. The Peninsula