Most people go through periods in their life when they feel sad over a loss, a difficult relationship or a struggle they’re facing at work or at home. When feelings of sadness go on for several days or more, when they go from feeling blue to feeling helpless, hopeless and worthless or when those feeling interfere with a person’s daily life, sadness may have turned into clinical depression, a serious and treatable medical condition.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 14.8 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. adult population suffer from depression. It affects women more than men and it’s the leading cause of disability in the United States for ages 15 to 44.
Nannies, like everyone else, are susceptible to depression. Employers should be aware of the symptoms of depression and encourage or require their nanny to be evaluated if they’re concerned about her mental health. It’s important to understand that a person who displays the common signs of depression may not be suffering from depression. Medications and other illnesses can cause similar symptoms. Only a mental health professional can accurately diagnosis depression.
So what should parents look for? Here are some questions to ask yourself about your caregiver to help you determine if she might be depressed.
Does she have difficulty concentrating, remembering details, or making decisions? This may show up as a usually organized and on the ball nanny appearing to be off her game. She may have a hard time focusing on what you’re asking her to do when you review the weekly to do list. She may forget small details like adding something to the grocery list or more important details like early dismissal for a teacher conference at your child’s school. She may have a hard time deciding if she should stock up on a favorite grocery item while it’s on sale or if she should let your child go on an afternoon play date with a mom she just met. If your nanny is suddenly having a problem concentrating, remembering details or making decision, it might be a sign she’s depressed.
Is she fatigued or has decreased energy? If your normally energetic nanny is now tired all the time, it may be a sign of depression. Does she barely drag herself into the house each morning or is she excited to start the day? Is she engaging with your child throughout the day or has she become more of an observer, leaving your child to entertain herself? Is she and your child spending time at the park, the zoo or with friends or are they spending the majority of the day at home by themselves? Ongoing tiredness may be a sign of depression.
Is she irritable? When a nanny who normally lets the normal stresses of the day roll off her back now gets easily frustrated and irritated, it might be a sign of depression. Of course everyone is going to have a bad day now and then, even your very patient nanny. However if it’s happening on an ongoing basis it might point to something more serious.
Has she lost interest in activities or hobbies she once enjoyed? Even parents who don’t have a close relationship with their nanny have a sense of what the nanny enjoys doing in her off time. In the usual “What are you doing this weekend?” conversations, the nanny may talk about the craft fair she’s attending, her new class on modern art, or her new role as her son’s soccer team assistant coach. If your nanny no longer shows an interest in the things she used to be so passionate about, it might be a sign of a larger problem.
Is she overeating or has she lost her appetite? Even though most parents don’t spend many mealtimes with their nanny, it’s easy to see if she’s losing or gaining weight. If it doesn’t seem to be a conscious effort to shed extra pounds, it might point to a depression issue.
If your nanny is exhibiting these symptoms of depression, she might be clinically depressed. Or she might not be. It’s critical to remember that only a professional can accurately diagnosis clinical depression. However if you see these symptoms in your nanny, talk with her about it. Open, honest communication between a parent and nanny is always the best approach to any problem or concern. It’s in everyone’s best interest that the nanny be given appropriate treatment if she is suffering from depression or any other mental illness.