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Is depression a disability?

Defined under the Equality Act 2010, depression is considered a disability if it has a long-term effect on normal day-to-day activities; where ‘long-term’ is deemed as lasting, or likely to last, 12 months or more. One in four people in the UK will have a mental health issue at some point in their lives, so we thought we’d delve a little deeper into this emotive topic.

What is depression?

As the world’s most common mental health problem, depression is a genuine health condition with real symptoms. There are various different types of depression, where some conditions can display depression as a symptom. Types of depression include:

  • Clinical depression
  • Postnatal depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
  • Psychotic depression

Ranging from mild to moderate to severe, depression symptoms vary from case to case; generally leaving sufferers with long-term feelings of sadness, hopelessness, low self-worth and a loss of interest in things they used to enjoy. Symptoms of anxiety tend to accompany these feelings too.

The NHS has a comprehensive list of symptoms of depression, that sufferers, family members and employers may find useful.

What causes depression?

Families with a history of depression are much more likely to experience it at some point in their life. Sometimes depression can be triggered by a stressful, life-changing event, e.g. a bereavement, job loss or having a baby, but some people can become depressed for no obvious reason.

Depression diagnosis and treatment

If symptoms of depression affect you or your loved ones every day for longer than a period of 2 weeks, it’s advisable to seek help from a GP. This test (click and scroll down) will help assess the situation but is by no means a replacement for a GP consultation.

Treatment is dependent on the severity of the depression; mild, moderate or severe. So, treatments can range between practising mindfulness, engaging in exercise and talking therapies to antidepressants and brain stimulation treatment.

With extra funding being funnelled into mental health research and treatment in Britain, it’s encouraging to note that the NHS experienced a record high recovery rate for common mental illness during 2016/17 – where 49.3% of people completing talking therapy treatment for anxiety or depression recovered from their condition.

Depression and the workplace

An overhaul of the way disability benefits are assessed came into effect from January 2018, after courts ruled that previous benefit restrictions had discriminated against people with mental health issues.

Good mental health is an essential asset to any successful workplace; therefore, employers have a legal duty of care to ensure that disabled people are not treated unfavourably and are offered reasonable adjustments or support. Reasonable adjustments in the workplace for depression sufferers include:

  • Creating a clear strategy that supports staff to be open about their mental health
  • A flexible approach to hours, shift patterns, breaks or the physical environment
  • Workload support
  • Implementing a mentoring scheme
  • Offering mediation between colleagues

Mental health awareness is crucial in the 21st-century workplace

Work-related stress and mental health problems often go hand in hand too, which employers can proactively avoid by committing to improving conditions within the workplace.

Shelforce began as a workplace for the visually impaired in 1839 and to this day the majority of our workforce have some form of disability. Firmly focused on what employees can offer rather than what they can’t, learn more about who we are or contact us for further details.

Mental Health Awareness Week


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We have an impressive history which stretches back to 1839 when we were a workplace for the visually impaired.

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