Profmed CEO Graham Anderson says depression is a disease, much like diabetes or high blood pressure.

“It’s a chemical reaction, and not something that you can just ‘get over’. One of the biggest challenges in tackling the high incidence of depression is that people don’t recognise the symptoms in themselves,” explains Anderson.

The results from the 2017 Profmed Stress Index reveals that 10,9% of respondents had taken off from work due to stress-related illnesses over the past six months, an increase from the previous year’s 9,7%.

When dealing with a colleague or someone you are close to and whom you suspect may be suffering from depression, encourage them to seek treatment.

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“A qualified, clinical psychologist best makes a diagnosis of depression, and there is no need to get a referral from a GP first before seeking out help,” says Anderson.

According to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag), clinical depression affects mood, mind, body and behaviour.

“Research has shown that 20% of the population will develop a depressive disorder during the course of their lives, and nearly two-thirds do not get the help they require,” says SADAG on its site.

If left untreated, depression is a gateway to further health problems, and also the leading cause of suicide. However, treatment can alleviate the symptoms in over 80% of cases.

How you can support someone who is depressed

Take them seriously

Don’t minimise their feelings by saying “Chin up” or “This too shall pass.” Acknowledge what they are saying and validate their feelings by giving an appropriate response, such as “This must be difficult for you to deal with.” They need to know that the emotions, or sometimes, the lack thereof, are a real issue and not to be swept aside.

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Listen to them

While you may be tempted to deep-dive into their issues, what your colleague or friend needs most is a safe place to air their thoughts and feelings. If they do feel like sharing, ask them open questions, like “What do you find helps you feel better?”

Respond to any hints of self-harm or talk of suicide

According to the Medical Research Council, there were 6 133 deaths by suicide in South Africa in 2012 – the most recent statistic available. Men, in particular, are at a higher risk of suicide, with 14 men dying from suicide every day in South Africa.

Lastly, take care of yourself. It can be tiring to support someone who is dealing with clinical depression. Set boundaries and monitor your own emotional wellbeing, and seek out support for yourself if you feel overwhelmed.

“Depression can be managed,” says Anderson. “Between a clinical psychologist, a psychiatrist and prescribed medication, you will find the right treatment plan for what you are experiencing.”