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​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Depression - It’s More Common Than You Think

Depression affects men and women of any age, occupation, or social status - often in their prime working years. Nearly eight per cent of all Canadians will experience depression at some point in their lives.

Many people suffer from depression without identifying it as such.

If you are:

  1. feeling unhappy most of the time?
  2. losing interest in the things you used to enjoy?
  3. waking up exhausted and struggling to make it through each day?
  4. having difficulty concentrating or making decisions?
  5. feeling overwhelmed and hopeless?

Like three million other Canadian adults, you may be suffering from depression.

Source: Canadian Mental Health Association

What is Depression?

It’s normal to feel “blue” or down in the dumps every now and then. Misfortune or personal problems can leave us all struggling with feelings of loss, sadness, frustration, or disappointment. But when these emotions persist for more than a few weeks and intensify as time goes by, it may be a sign of depression.

Depression is a serious medical illness that can interfere with your ability to carry out the normal functions of everyday life. It can change the way you think and behave, and undermine your sense of personal well-being.

The effects of depression can also affect everyone around you - friends and family, colleagues and co-workers.

The Signs and Symptoms of Depression

Depression may begin suddenly, or it may develop slowly over a period of weeks or months. While everyone experiences depression in his or her own way, there are some common warning signs.

Personal changes

Are you:

  1. uninterested in work, hobbies, people, sex?
  2. withdrawing from family and friends?
  3. feeling useless, hopeless, excessively guilty?
  4. feeling agitated, restless, irritable?
  5. feeling overwhelmingly sad; crying easily?
  6. lacking in self-esteem; unconfident?
  7. chronically tired; unenergetic?
  8. sleeping or eating more than usual? or
  9. abusing drugs, alcohol?

Workplace changes

Are you:

  1. unable to concentrate, plan, make decisions?
  2. less productive?
  3. frequently late; using more sick days?
  4. more irritable and impatient with students?
  5. unenthusiastic about work?
  6. often tired?
  7. uncooperative, less dependable?
  8. making noticeably more errors at work than usual? or
  9. taking safety risks; having accidents?

Causes of Depression

Depression can be triggered by:

  1. major life events - death of a loved one, miscarriage, divorce, job loss;
  2. genetic factors - people with a family history of depression are more susceptible; or
  3. chronic illnesses - e.g. arthritis, heart disease, cancer—possibly as a side effect of medications and/or loss of quality of life.

Gender may also play a role in depression. Women are twice as likely as men to suffer from depression, particularly during menstrual cycle changes, pregnancy, the postpartum period, and menopause.

The Effect of Stress

Stress is one of the major risk factors for depression. Workplace stress has many causes and is commonly associated with excessive time and workload pressures.

An ETFO study found that over 90 per cent of all public elementary teachers felt they were overworked. More than 69 per cent also felt that their workload was having a negative impact on their physical  and mental health. Workplace exposure to high levels of chronic stress puts teachers at particular risk of depression.

Key Causes of Teacher Stress

Working conditions, such as the following, may make teachers particularly vulnerable to depression:

  1. Long working hours.
  2. Lack of administrative support.
  3. Excessive workload.
  4. Large class sizes.
  5. Lack of specialist teachers.
  6. Unreasonable expectations.
  7. Lack of necessary supports to do the job.

Dealing with Stress

Prolonged exposure to stress can cause serious health issues. Making a few, simple, lifestyle changes can reduce your stress level and lower your risk of depression. Protect yourself by:

  1. taking control of your life, setting achievable goals at work and at home, and being realistic about what you can accomplish.
  2. improving your time management skills and managing your workload by prioritizing responsibilities and working to a planned schedule. Job satisfaction will improve when you focus on tasks that are personally and professionally meaningful.
  3. making time for relationships and taking time to connect with family and friends. A strong support network makes stress easier to manage.
  4. eating a healthy, balanced diet to maintain good mental and physical health.
  5. exercising regularly.  Even a 10-minute walk, three times a day, reduces stress and relieves symptoms of depression.

Support a Colleague Suffering from Depression

Sometimes, people suffer needlessly with depression because they are embarrassed, or worried about gossip and work consequences. If you suspect that a colleague is depressed, be supportive and understanding.

Lend a sympathetic ear and try to get your colleague to talk openly about his or her thoughts and feelings. Remember that your colleague is ill and may react strongly to the things you say or do. Be patient, caring, and respectful, even if your support is not immediately appreciated.

Encourage your colleague to seek professional help. The sooner she or he gets help, the sooner life will return to normal.

Get Help for Your Own Depression

If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, get professional help as soon as possible. Most people with depression can be successfully treated with counselling, medication and lifestyle changes.

For health-related concerns, contact your physician. Your doctor may refer you to a psychiatrist, psychologist or specially trained social worker.

For work-related concerns, contact your ETFO local or provincial federation. Your federation representative will help you obtain support through your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and answer your questions regarding access to sick leave, long-term disability (LTD) and workplace accommodations.

For personal support, rely on a trusted family member, friend or faith leader. People close to you can be a caring source of support during difficult times. Self-help groups and other local community services may also offer practical advice and guidance to help you manage your depression.

Returning to Work

Your return-to-work program will be structured according to the recommendations of your doctor or therapist. If you require workplace accommodations, your ETFO local federation representative will help you make the appropriate arrangements with your board.

Sometimes, a gradual return to work is the best approach. As you progress from part-time to full-time hours, you can set your own pace for recovery and experience the success of each new accomplishment.

For many people, returning to work is one of the best ways to overcome the isolation and sadness associated with depression.


Depression can be treated successfully. Take the first step towards recovery and talk to your doctor today.

Members are advised to consult Professional Relations Services staff at 416-962-3836 or 1-888-838-3836 for additional advice.​