Sharing personal information can be a difficult task

Posted: Sunday, January 15, 2006

Depression tends to strike employees in their prime working years, which puts a strain on both the company and employee.

"Often, employees, co-workers and supervisors do notice that something is wrong, but they don't know what it is," explains Julie Totten, president and founder of Families for Depression Awareness, a non-profit organization dedicated to help families recognize and cope with the illness. "Typically, relationships become strained; co-workers may have to take over the person's tasks; some people may distance themselves from the person with depression; supervisors may be frustrated, uncomfortable, or angry with the person and feel responsible for finding a solution."

Informing your boss about any illness is a very personal decision. Some employees choose to keep the details to a minimum, while others feel comfortable describing their medical condition in detail. Either way, there are some advantages and disadvantages to making your condition known.

"Some people do it and find it really helps and people embrace them," says Totten. "It can really open the door for others in the organization to get help, but if the organization does not have a culture of acceptance, or communicate its policy or demonstrate that it will support people with depression, it can be difficult for some people to do so."

Resources for depression: National Institute for Mental Health

Mayo Clinic;

Employer-employee confidentiality laws differ from state to state, so be sure to get that information prior to discussing your medical condition in detail. Often, if an employer believes you to be a potential threat to yourself or someone else, they will take action.

"Usually, the most difficult part is getting people to recognize that they have depression and to get help - they're often reluctant to do it," adds Totten.

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