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Work and Depression

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: September 2023

Living with major depressive disorder (MDD) can be hard. Add the demands of work, and it can become a huge challenge to navigate. People with depression might find it hard to get out of bed at times, so work may seem impossible. It can also be tough to concentrate and make decisions. Enlisting the support of your employer is important.1,2

Missed days and productivity

Living with MDD might sometimes lead to missed days at work. If the condition is left untreated, people miss even more days. In fact, MDD is one of the most costly reasons why people miss work. Some research shows that MDD costs the US economy more than $51 billion per year from missed days at work.3

To maintain productivity, breaking down tasks into smaller parts can be helpful. Setting achievable goals and giving yourself credit for completing them can boost your confidence. If you find it hard to focus, take breaks, get up and move and/or practice deep breathing or stretching to reduce stress and promote concentration.1

It is important to talk with your boss when you need a break. Remember, mental health is just as crucial as physical health, and prioritizing your well-being is a key part of being successful.1

Stigma

The stigma surrounding mental health can create barriers in the workplace. Some people might not fully understand MDD and may judge you unfairly. But companies are becoming more aware of this issue. Many organizations are finding ways to provide support and resources for employees with mental health conditions.4

Looking for work

Finding work while managing MDD can be challenging, but remember that having a mental health condition does not define your abilities. During interviews, focus on your skills and experiences. If you are comfortable, you can choose to disclose your condition and whether you need accommodations. It is your choice whether to share this information.1

Keeping a job

Once you have secured a job, communication is key. Talk to your boss about any accommodations you might need.1

You have the right to fair accommodations at work according to the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Businesses with 15 or more workers must obey the ADA. Some examples of accommodations that can assist people with MDD symptoms include:5

  • Flexible work hours or remote work
  • Additional breaks
  • Job coaching

Make sure to use any resources provided by your employee assistance program (EAP) if available, too.6

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

The Family and Medical Leave Act allows eligible employees to take unpaid leave from their jobs for specific family or medical reasons. For someone with MDD, FMLA can be a helpful tool.7

If you have MDD and need time off work to focus on your mental health, FMLA can allow you to take a leave of absence without risking your job. You can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a 12-month period. During this time, your job is protected. This means your employer must give you your job or a similar one when you are ready to return to work.7

FMLA requires you to meet certain criteria and provide proper notice to your employer. You also may be eligible if you care for a loved one with MDD. If you are considering using FMLA, you will need to talk with your doctor and your employer to understand how the process works and complete the necessary documents.7

Your journey, your strength

Managing MDD while working is no easy task. But whether you are dealing with missed days or facing stigma, you have the power to shape your journey. Recognize your strength and resilience. Reach out for support from friends, family, or health professionals. By advocating for yourself, seeking accommodations, and embracing your strengths, you can navigate the world of work while managing MDD.4

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