On Thursday September 1, 2016, the Conference Board of Canada, one of the country’s think-tanks, released a report pointing out that the low productivity of workers with depression and anxiety costs the Canadian economy almost $50 billion a year – $32.5 billion due to depression and $17.3 billion to anxiety. Considering the size of the economy worth around $1.8 trillion, $50 billion may look trivial to some. Nonetheless, depression and anxiety affect workers. According to the report, worker productivity is lost through both absence – when employees don’t show up at work – and presence at work, when employees are not performing to their full potential.
The report shows that the proportion of workers with depression varied by industry group – with the accommodation, food services, and retail trade on top of the list. As I showed in my earlier post on “Our changing economy“, these two industry groups employed 18.2% of the total of 17.9 million employed, and contributed 7.5% to the total of $1.6 trillion of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2015. In other words, workers employed in these industries have lower productivity, and as a result, earn less than those employed in other industry groups. The report acknowledges that jobs in accommodation, food services, and retail trade are precarious – most are non-permanent, offer shift work, and have high turnover. One may easily conclude from this evidence that low earnings are likely the cause of depression and anxiety – besides several others. The report recommends employers to pay more attention to the issue of mental health of workers.
In this note, I don’t intend to question any recommendation of the report but offer a brief perspective on depression alone. Employers may go to any length to care for mental health of their workers, the bottom line, as I see it, is that each worker, being engulfed by his/her own problem triggering depression, is eventually responsible to find a unique cure.
It’s an illness that impacts the brain of a person. The brain’s chemicals that carry signals among nerves or neurotransmitters are imbalanced and therefore don’t behave as desired, resulting in a brain ailment. The World Health Organization characterizes depression as the most disabling disorders in the world. A depressed person feels totally at loss, loses interest in activities that keep life moving, fails to stay focused, withdraws from people, family, and friends, feels sad and isolated, fails to resolve any personal, family, or work-related problem. A depressed person is on a life’s journey without any navigational compass – floats like a rudderless ship.
Who’s affected by depression and what triggers it?
Depression is a multi-faceted universal concept that can hit men and women of all ages – working, not working, or retired, living in urban or rural areas. Same way, it can hit the poor, the middle class, and the wealthy. The working-poor may be depressed because of inadequate income, the middle class on account of say, too much of mortgage and non-mortgage indebtedness, and the wealthy, on account of, say, investment losses. Depression can be triggered by a number of factors ranging from brain ailment to inadequate income, family conflict, or terminal illness, excessive debt, job loss, lack of career advancement, grief, death of a loved one – to name a few. According to Statistics Canada and Health Canada, depression is likely to affect less than ten percent of Canadians at some point in their lives.
Keep in mind that sadness and depression are two different concepts. Sadness is of short-term nature, and recovery from it may not require any treatment. Depression, on the other hand, is of long-term nature and may require a proper treatment including drugs and antidepressants provided by a doctor or a psychiatrist, or counselling by a social worker. Treatment including use of antidepressants may temporarily improve the chemical composition of one’s brain, and as a result, change one’s mood, but can’t totally eradicate depression unless the remedy to its root cause is found. For example, if one is depressed on account of a family conflict, no medicine is going to cure depression until the conflict is resolved and total harmony prevails among family members. Many depressed persons looking and acting normal on the surface may in fact be resisting voluntarily to share their condition with professional healthcare agents.
Again, depressed men and women act differently. For instance, depressed men may be more irritable, indulge into reckless drinking, angry outbursts, lose interest in work, etc., whereas women may feel sad, guilty, worthless, etc. Both sexes of all ages may socially isolate themselves from family and friends, indulge into binge eating, or sleeping.
How to cure depression?
Depends on how serious the depression is. If it’s chronic, its treatment may require proper medical care, including the use of drugs and antidepressants. On the other hand, if it’s mild or of short-term nature, a person can cure it by changing his/her life style, entertaining more positive thoughts, indulging into activities that he/she likes, keeping his/her heart and mind open to new and challenging thoughts, focusing more on his/her personal goals worth pursuing and achieving, getting away from self-loathing, or self-pity. One of the best cures for both the chronic and non-chronic depression is to develop a routine to indulge into some physical and strenuous exercise. Since all such exercises not only improve the flow of blood in a body, but also cause healthy hormonal changes which, in turn, can help balance the desired chemical composition of the brain – the epicentre of depression. One should stay active as much as one can. Indulge into creative and productive work, activities, or hobbies.
Personally, I get quite depressed if I don’t spend time reading and thinking of some creative ideas for my daily writing, or I miss my trip to a gym for exercise. Reading and writing have been, and still are, are my constant companions and keep nurturing my body and soul. Even when I am depressed for any reason, these activities have always lifted up my spirits. Granted, not everyone is, or can be a keen reader or a writer. The point here is to get involved in activities that give you the utmost pleasure in order to overcome your depression.
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