Psychiatric disorders play big role in absenteeism

POSTED: 11/20/12 1:49 PM

WILLEMSTAD — ‘Het is weer tijd om op te staan. Maar ik heb geen zin om naar m’n werk te gaan.’ (It’s time to get up again but I don’t feel like going to work) This song was a modest hit in the Netherlands in 1965 from a cult band called Het (It). Later on it was used in a Postbus51-campagne from the government under the slogan ‘Praat met je baas als je vindt dat je werk anders kan’. (Talk with your boss if you think your work could be done differently). Figures from Arbo Consult on Curaçao show that 65 percent of the absenteeism has a psychiatric component, though it’s not all about depression.

For example, a single mother with several children, who works and one of her children is sick. She is simply tired. The real serious depression seldom appears in the statistics at Arbo consult, but prolonged absenteeism does, Earley Elshot-Sardjo said this weekend during the symposium ‘Depression: A global crisis’, organized by PSI-Skuchami.

Worldwide an estimated 400 million people cope with one or other psychiatric disorder or depression. According to prognoses from the World Health Organization, depression will be number two of the common diseases in 2030, after HIV and heart and vascular diseases. In many cases a period of depression often returns. We then speak of a chronic disease. Depression is now already in the top 3 and not only in countries with a low income, said Gabe de Vries, manager at Roads/Arkin, a Dutch bureau that helps clients with depressions finding jobs.

In many cases, depression leads to absenteeism. This costs money, while the productivity drops. However, depression is considered a taboo; a patient doesn’t want to admit it but is expected to put a brave face on. More women than men suffer from a depression. Psychiatric complaints occur often in the public health sector and education but also in the financial service. Much depends on the employer’s sympathy. The problem is often found in the work pressure, lack of organization and social support. Too much is expected if he/she is not performing to capacity; there is uncertainty about the job or a lack of perspective. The situation at home or relational problems could also be of influence. This leads to complaints like headache, neck, back or stomach pains. In short, your work could make you depressive, but also other factors can play a role. A desk clerk could suffer from a high, emotional pressure of work after having survived a raid and is afraid it could happen again.

And yet, many employees with these complaints wait a long time before asking for help and get in deep water. The employee can’t shake it off, receives no support and is ashamed. They withdraw, cover up mistakes, often arrive late at work and once the day is over they rather sit on the couch instead of joining activities that takes their mind off things.

“The employee realizes this and his manager also realizes this could work out wrong soon and yet they avoid each other, which leads to a negative spiral”, De Vries explained. On the other hand an open communication with the employer could lead to other possibilities: a different department or other tasks for example. Recognition and admission could help with the treatment of client. A more active approach, discussing the problems and changing certain patterns also play an important role. The study she did in Suriname certainly meant something for the participants, De Vries noticed. For example they realized they weren’t the only ones because psychiatric problems on the shop floor occur more than frequently.`

In her work as company doctor Earley Elshot is confronted with various cases, such as mild forms of depression. They function but without joy and feel they aren’t appreciated. It doesn’t lead to a higher absenteeism because work actually gives distraction and a good performance gives a balance in life. Moreover, an employee feels guilty when reporting sick because the work is not finished. Nevertheless, it could lead to a more serious depression. Too few tasks could also cause a depression. “You become self-conscious so you work harder, longer but it doesn’t give you any satisfaction, you become less social, are tired and no longer a pleasant colleague.”

Then there’s the suffering from over strain and the burn-out. As many symptoms match those of a depression an Arbo-doctor must often ask direct questions to come up with a diagnosis.

On Curaçao psychiatric complaints are often caused by unemployment, uncertainly about the job (contracts that expire) but also reorganization. “After 10-10-’10 people were transferred from shop floor A to B with other tasks and without knowing the colleagues.” In that case one could become depressive from the shop floor itself. A dark room, no windows, little ventilation or a room that is too warm or too cold. Much can be accomplished with the mediation and coaching of a company doctor, mutual trust, understanding and cooperation from an employer for the problem – even when it not work-related. “In general peace is no therapy for a depressive employees”, said Elshot.

Her final advice is to feel at home on the shop floor. “On average you spend eight hours there, you sleep the other eight hours and the rest you spend on other activities. Seek the nice things because you can always find negative points.”

A depression is a disorder of the mood, which is characterized by a loss of joy, or serious dejection. One speaks of clinic depression when an extensive number of criterions are met, as described in diagnostic and statistical guidebooks.

These criterion are a lack of interest and pleasure, concentration problems, forgetfulness and indecisiveness, feelings of guilt, despair and fear, extreme fatigue with minor efforts, anxiety, sluggishness, losing one’s appetite or actually gaining weight, insomnia, sleeping a lot, not wanting to get up, and suicidal thoughts.


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