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Business depression

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Many business owners and employees could be carrying around a load that could distort business perceptions, undermine decision-making and kill profits. It's called depression and many people in positions of responsibility can suffer from it without even knowing.

To sum up the situation, take the case of the American business proprietor, Bill Edwards whose company was having problems.

He told US business magazine, Your Company, "I wasn't sleeping. I'd lost 25 pounds and felt like a fog had enveloped my decision-making.

"I cried almost daily, sometimes uncontrollably. I hadn't gone for help because I had a relationship with the Lord and thought maybe all I needed to do was pray harder.

"When I finally saw a psychologist, he pulled down a book and read me the symptoms of clinical depression. I scored ten out of ten."

Experts advise this is not a rare story. Business pressures interacting with other current and/or historical problems in a person's life can easily culminate in depression.

US statistics show 19 million Americans are affected by clinical depression yet only a third will do anything about it.

"Depression in Australia is of epidemic proportions," said Dr Robert Schiavuzzi, a Sydney GP who has a special interest in business people and their ailments. "The problem is so great that the federal government set up an institute for the purpose of assessing and, hopefully, addressing the problem."

He says the incidence of depression is unknown but is probably very high and worryingly, most people who are depressed don't know they're depressed.

"They do know that something is wrong, but often lack the objectivity to know what it is and that it's a well-recognised mental illness. In fact, it's the commonest mental illness in our society," he warned.

According to Dr Schiavuzzi, many cases of depression respond to short courses of counselling, often delivered by the GP. Sometimes, drug therapy is required.

"The drugs currently available are safer, more effective and much more acceptable to patients than older preparations of even five years ago," he said.

He advises that Cognitive-Behaviour Therapy with a psychologist can be an important adjunct to drug treatment.

He believes Australians are worried about people knowing they are going to a psychologist compared to Americans and sees it as something that needs to be de-stigmatised.

Dr Schiavuzzi pointed out:
  • Lifestyle factors are important in preventing depression - ensure you get adequate time away from work; pursue hobbies and leisure activities regularly
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle, one that involves regular exercise, good nutrition and not excessive amounts of alcohol. Avoid cigarettes and other drugs altogether
  • Nurture and maintain good relationships, with spouses, partners, friends, colleagues: these will sustain you when things go wrong
  • If given the choice between love or money, choose love every time. 

"As my dad says, money will be around long after we're gone - don't go crazy chasing it," Dr Schiavuzzi added.

Published on: Monday, June 29, 2009

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