Nov. 4 - It costs an estimated 92 billion euros in lost productivity every year and now some of Europe's biggest firms, including BT, Deutsche Post and Royal Mail, have got together to try and tackle depression in the workplace. Hayley Platt meets a senior Unilever executive who's battled mental illness.
Geoff McDonald is a Vice President at the global consumer goods giant Unilever. He also suffers from depression. His first anxiety attack happened five years ago. It kept him off work for 2 months. SOUNDBITE: Geoff McDonald, Global Vice President of Human Resources, Unilever, saying (English): "I was kind of anxious and depressed and it played itself out in things like no appetite, I couldn't read the newspaper. I couldn't read stories that were of a negative nature. I was anxious about my children and where they were all the time." Depression is a massive problem world-wide. In Europe, it's estimated one in ten workers are affected. In Spain 1 in 5. And it's a similar figure in France. It's costing Europe's businesses an estimated 92 billion euros in lost productivity every year. Now some of Europe's largest employers including BT, Deutsche Post and Royal Mail have vowed to tackle depression head on. John Duncan is Group HR Director at Royal Mail. SOUNDBITE: John Duncan, Group HR Director, Royal Mail, saying (English): "I think what we need to do is de-stigmatise mental illness. It's the same as any other type of illness whether an injury sustained, cancer, heart disease. Mental illness is a disease and just requires a different approach in terms of rehabilitation and reintegration into the workplace." The workplace can often be where depression starts. A recent survey showed that UK workers are the unhappiest in Europe. Only two-thirds of British workers are satisfied with their current employer. Most blamed long hours, low pay and a lack of appreciation. SOUNDBITE: Geoff McDonald, Global Vice President of Human Resources, Unilever, saying (English): "Often a trigger to depression can be no feedback, not knowing how you're performing at work and these are not difficult things for leaders to do, to say to someone 'Hey, well done! You've done a wonderful job!' and just give them a bit of feedback." The initiative aims to help businesses reduce the financial impact of mental illness. The group held its first meeting last month. It made identifying and supporting sufferers one of its priorities. SOUNDBITE: John Duncan, Group HR Director, Royal Mail, saying (English): "This can be money very well spent, if it prevents an employee from a lengthy absence." Geoff is now happy in his work and at home. But millions of others aren't - and many are suffering in silence - too embarrassed to seek help.