16 Sep 2013

Depressed workers suffer in silence

5:55 am on 16 September 2013

Research in Australia shows many employees suffering from depression won't tell their boss because they fear it will harm their career prospects.

A new report titled The Elephant in the Boardroom: Getting Mentally Fit for Work, surveyed more than 4000 people with depression and stress disorders.

Of these, 89% believed the stigma in the workplace could be reduced if mental health disorders were given the same care and compassion as physical illnesses.

AAP reported another 79% wanted to see a mental health policy in place which listed all employees' rights and prohibited an organisation from discriminating against someone with a mental illness.

Study author Graeme Cowen said simple things in the workplace can make life easier for someone who's having a tough time.

"One of the things is having a manager or people around them who seem to care about them as a person," Mr Cowen told AAP. "Having emotional support is perhaps the most important thing."

However, he said it was equally important that other support systems were introduced across the workforce.

"Organisations need to make available easy to find, anonymously accessed, resources and information.

Mr Cowen also warned that employees risked making the situation worse for themselves by remaining silent, as managers could mistake their symptoms for laziness or incompetence.

"A boss could see it as a performance management issue, rather than someone who needs help and assistance."

The report will be presented at a national conference in Canberra on Thursday.