Poor performance, presenteeism products of treatable illness


You’re there, but your heart’s not into the work. You lack motivation. You forget about assignments and miss deadlines.

If those statements apply to you, it’s possible that you might need a change of scenery. But it’s more likely that you’re struggling with some form of depression, and it’s affecting your ability to do your job.

According to a 1999 study conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, at least one in 10 people struggle with depression, a number that’s likely higher today. But despite that, only one in three people with mental health conditions seek care.

“Many individuals with depression are not aware they even have the condition due to lack of awareness of its signs and symptoms,” according to a fact sheet issued by Right Direction, an initiative dedicated to raising workplace depression awareness.

Though the stigma associated with depression and other mental disorders has diminished in recent years because of improved public awareness, many workers with depression are still wary of seeking treatment because of fear of repercussions from their employers. But there’s no need to be fearful; HIPAA prevents doctors and employee-assistance programs from disclosing the medical history of patients to their employers.

Depression and other mental illnesses are often treatable, but many people with mental illnesses don’t realize something is wrong.


If more than a few of the following symptoms apply to you, the American Psychiatric Association recommends that you follow up with a mental health professional:

  • Loss of interest in socializing and activities you used to enjoy;
  • Problems with memory, focus, and concentration;
  • Heightened sensitivity and susceptibility to overstimulation;
  • Apathy;
  • Anxiety;
  • Changes to your appetite or sleep habits;
  • Mood changes;
  • Illogical thoughts;
  • Feelings of disconnectedness from one’s surroundings or a sense of unreality.

“One or two of these symptoms alone can’t predict a mental illness,” according to the APA’s website. “But if a person is experiencing several at one time and the symptoms are causing serious problems in the ability to study, work or relate to others, he/she should be seen by a mental health professional.

“People with suicidal thoughts or intent, or thoughts of harming others, need immediate attention.”

Mental illness can be treated a number of ways, including medication and different therapeutic approaches. If your employer offers an employee-assistance program, it’s a good idea to call and talk to a trained therapist who can provide connect you with helpful resources. If not, your health insurance company or primary care physician are good places to start when seeking help.