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Managing depression in the workplace

Managing depression in the workplace

Sandra worked as a senior accountant in a large accountancy firm. She was extremely successful at her job and had enjoyed a loving relationship with her husband for over 20 years. She lost her husband six months ago and initially took two weeks annual leave to help her cope with her loss. She returned to work just over five months ago and began to lose interest in her role and her personal life eventually taking sickness-absence and was diagnosed with mild to moderate depression. When she was referred a Working Minds UK CBT practitioner she had been off from work for 8 weeks.


Sandra sadly lost her husband 6 months earlier and had noticed her energy levels reducing. She also noticed she was becoming increasingly tearful, described poor concentration, poor sleep pattern with early morning waking and increased anxiety when going out. She eventually saw her GP and had been signed off from work.

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The Problem

Sandra was experiencing a mild/moderate degree of depression from the loss of her husband. She was very frightened and didnt really understand what was happening to her and why she was experiencing the symptoms she had. She had stopped going out and was constantly ruminating over the purpose of her life often unsure what the point was anymore.

Effective treatment for depression

The Solution

She saw a cognitive behavioural  psychotherapist for an assessment from Working Minds UK. The therapy identified a number of areas to be focused on.

Factors identified

  1. She had negative views over her future.
  2. She did not understand her symptoms and often felt she was going mad.
  3. She had stopped social contact and was isolating herself in her house.
  4. She was off sick from work.

Sandra was given information on depression and the role of work in maintaining mental health (see Self Help PDF section). She was educated regarding the factors that maintain depression and was able to understand the biological process of loss and why certain symptoms are experienced.

She began to understand that what she was doing to manage her sadness was ACTUALLY MAINTAINING her depression.

Her belief about the loss of meaning in her life was a focus in therapy and she was able to see that reducing her social contact, removal of hobbies and interests, reduced activity and sickness-absence were actually all adding to her negative view of her future.

A graded approach was delivered whereby Sandra started to go out daily for walks, contacted her best friend and arranged to go out and go into work to see her colleagues. The therapy also allowed her to talk about her loss and expose to her thoughts thus reducing the negative impact of painful thoughts. She was also encouraged to look at photographs of her husband as a strategy to access positive memories as she recognised she had been avoiding this due to the initial emotional distress this would cause.

The therapist also liaised with the occupational health department to plan a graded return to work for Sandra. It was recognised that tiredness and poor concentration would need to be addressed by gradually increasing her working hours and workload so she could regain her confidence and energy levels.


After 5 sessions of CBT Sandra felt her mood had improved. She had recognised that sickness-absence, although was needed initially, had actually become a maintenance factor to her depression as she was sitting at home with minimal structure, little stimulus, no social contact and hardly any activity; primary factors in all human beings that maintain mental health!!

She was able to talk freely and openly about her husband and access positive experiences and memories. She was visiting family and friends and enjoying time with her grandchildren and realising that there was a point to her life!

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