Depression and anxiety in the workplace - How can you help?

By Adam Kurdas

Published on 30-01-2014

Depression and anxiety in the workplace - How can you help?

For most of us, work is a major part of our lives. It is where we spend at least a third of our time, have most contact with other people and where we make our money.  Work helps us feel like productive, valuable members of society. Work gives our days, weeks and years meaning and structure, and fosters social interactions.   

In Australia, over one million people are living with depression and over two million are experiencing a form of anxiety. With these kind figures it’s quite possible that someone you work with could be experiencing a mental health issue.

Common signs for people with depression could be;

  • Loss of motivation;
  • Changes in social behavior in the workplace;
  • Low confidence;
  • Tearful, nervousness;
  • Irritability;
  • Feeling overwhelmed;
  • Loss of appetite

 Common signs for people with anxiety could be;

  • Unusually worried or fearful in most situations;
  • Easily startled;
  • Difficulty concentrating;
  • Difficulty making decisions;
  • Urges to perform certain rituals to relieve anxiety

So, how do you help a colleague with depression or anxiety?

If you suspect a colleague to be suffering from depression or anxiety the best thing to do is talk to them in private, ask if they are okay. Let them know you have noticed a change in their behavior. It can be a big deal for a person to discuss how they feel and to admit there is a problem, however, be open and tell them that you care. Let your colleague know that you are there if they want to talk further or again.

It can also be helpful to; 

  • Suggest they visit their GP or health care professional and help them make an appointment;
  • Help them gather information online  about depression and anxiety;
  • Let your colleague share as much or as little information as they want to and reassure them that you ‘are there to listen without being judgmental;
  • Talk about wellbeing and how exercise, good diet, relaxation and sleep can help improve everyone's mental health;
  • Encourage social interaction with family and friends but don’t pressure them to participate in activities;
  • Discourage them from using alcohol or drugs to try to feel better;

Remember depression and anxiety are illnesses, not weaknesses. People shouldn’t feel embarrassed about seeking assistance. A healthy workplace is one that is positive about mental health supports the well-being of employees, as well as encouraging openness about mental health problems. This encourages loyalty and brings out the best in all employees.

 To find out more information on anxiety and depression go to:

Beyondblue 1300224636



  • Is your employee suffering? Telltale signs of depression in the workplace by Noch Noch Li
  • Depression in the Workplace: Tips for Managers  by Elizabeth A. Peterson, MFA
  • Mental Health Foundation
  • Beyond Blue –