Dear Diversity Diva: I have been diagnosed with clinical depression. Even though I’ve brought in documentation, my boss is being difficult about letting me take a leave of absence. What should I do? — Worn Out From Depression
Dear Worn Out: Depression is a huge issue in the workplace affecting millions of Americans. Unlike other areas of diversity that are lifelong issues, depression can strike anyone at any time and can affect every area of your life.
I can’t personally address the issue of your employer approving your leave of absence because of the legal and human resources issues that impact how your employer interprets your policy and documentation.
However, your diagnosed depression is an illness and should be treated like any other health issue, such as heart disease, cancer or a car accident that may physically affect your ability to do your job. However, depression sometimes is perceived as something a person can just “shake off” like a summer cold.
I’m assuming that in addition to your direct supervisor, you are talking with the HR department about what kind of leave you need and for how long.
Employee productivity is no small issue for an employer, and while it may seem as if it’s just a matter of organizations being mean, insensitive overlords who don’t really care about their employees, in some cases it’s a matter of them trying to distinguish between the employees who really need time off and the ones just trying to get away
You should research what kinds of leave are available to you and be willing to ask yourself some hard questions. Are you willing to take an unpaid leave of absence if your employer approves that? Also, is your depression tied to your job or profession, thus requiring you to decide if you need to make a bigger life change in addition to addressing your depression?
Here’s a good resource on depression that will be useful to both you and your employer: www.depressioncalculator.com/InfoResources.asp#General.
Good luck on getting the help and support you need.