stressA third of people struggle to cope at work because of depression, stress or burn out, with 83% of those affected experiencing isolation or loneliness as a result, a survey has found.

While only half of those feeling lonely or isolated had confided in a colleague, of those that did, nearly three quarters (71%) found that it helped them feel better.

The survey of 1,200 people from across the UK, published by Depression Alliance as part of Depression Awareness Week, highlights the need for employers to take action to better recognise the condition and support affected staff.

To coincide with this, a new report, Depression in the Workplace in Europe: new insights from business leaders, highlights how major UK companies including Royal Mail, Barclays and Unilever are tackling depression by implementing new policies to enable structured support and processes for  affected workers.  

“At Unilever we firmly believe that addressing depression through our mental health policies benefits both our business and our employees,” said Tim Munden, vice president HR at Unilever. “We aim for a 10% reduction by 2015 in work-related mental ill-health cases and working days lost to mental ill-health.”

Emer O’Neill, chief executive of Depression Alliance, added: “Depression is the biggest mental health challenge among working-age people and often leads to considerable loneliness and isolation at work. However, many companies aren’t properly equipped to manage employees who suffer from depression so providing support to these individuals in the workplace is essential. We have just launched, Friends in Need, which provides anyone with depression with a free and easy way  to connect, either online or by meeting in groups and taking part in local activities, all of which help stop the feelings of loneliness and isolation.”