Generalizing such persons as “simply lazy” and suffering from “quirky mood swings” is not the way to handle the issue, as it might not be the person’s actual behaviour, but a temporary state of mind, say experts.
“If a junior colleague shows mood swings and irritability at the workplace, the onus is on senior colleagues to look into the issue. It could be a sign of depression,” says Nimhans director Dr BN Gangadhar.
“Depression is usually ignored by the person, the family and colleagues, it’s indeed a virtue to be sensitive to others, especially at the workplace. It’s a common phenomenon that the depressed person does not take his/her condition seriously, because depression is all about ignoring the self. The person might even fail to recognize any severe symptoms and that’s when people around need to help,” he said.
Depression is a silent killer, says Dr Vaijayanthi Subramanyan, associate professor of psychiatry, MS Ramaiah Medical College and Hospital. “During the onset, depression is not abrupt and acute. The person suffers from low self-esteem, inferiority complex, presumes no one can help and doesn’t seek help, and also becomes non-communicative. Depression is a state and not a trait,” says Dr Vaijayanthi.
Loneliness is a growing problem, says Anita Gracias, counsellor. “I ask many depressed people who come to me, why they don’t share their problems with fam ily, friends and colleagues. The standard response is ‘nobody cares’. The fact is any change in behaviour is noticed by people around but no one wants to reach out to the depressed person. People are becoming more selfish and as a society , we are losing out on social security,” says Anita.
While depression is a personal health issue, it is often loosely used to describe a person’s behaviour. Advocate KV Dhananjaya explains the provisions in case of a suicide, how the law interprets it and makes the tormentor accountable.
“The law knows a person of sound mind would not commit suicide; it therefore expects that a person who commits suicide has already become very vulnerable in mind. The law is not really interested in finding out if the person who committed suicide was mentally ill or was suffering from depression. It is interested in knowing if any other person had tormented the victim in such a manner as to force the suicide victim to take his own life. Such a tormentor could be punished under Section 306 IPC, with 10 years in jail. If the tormentor knows the victim is severely depressed and takes advantage of it and forces the victim to commit suicide, the tormentor could even be punished with death penalty,” he points out.
Firm extends helping hand
There are sunshine stories too. A leading corporate firm recently referred a patient to MS Ramaiah Hospital for therapy and counselling.”The company noticed the employee’s absenteeism and low performance, and the first level of counselling was done.For further psychiatric help, the techie aged 29 was sent to us. The only breadwinner of the family, he had to deal with a legal suit over a family property and at the same time, his father had a stroke. He was handling too many things at a time and hit by depression. These days, we see firms keeping an eye on the mental health of employees,” said Dr Vaijayanthi.