Depression, Anxiety and sick leaves

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Laura Lillo Pulido

Laura Lillo Pulido

Forensic health psychologist

  • “Can I ask for a sick leave if I’m sad?”
  • “I’m overwhelmed by my job, I cannot keep up with this pace. I quit.”
  • “My colleagues make me to not want to work.”
  • “This job is consuming me and it is not even what gives me a purpose in life”.

Mental disorders can lead to sick leaves

Mental disorders have been rising during previous years, and the recent pandemic has only worsened the situation. Deep sadness, uncontrollable anxiety or high work pressure are increasingly interfering with our routines. This can not only cause sick leaves, but it can account for a large percentage of them. Actually, in the last year, almost ⅓ of the sick leaves in Bristol, United Kingdom, have been caused by stress, anxiety or depression. July of this year, a legal sentence recognized an anxiety sick leave as a work accident.

Certain groups have been particularly affected, such as teachers. They have had to adapt at all times and have seen their workload increase considerably. We explain more about this in our article on Teacher Burnout Syndrome. Also in the newspapers El Mundo and Cuenca’s Voices they warn us of the increase in dropouts due to stress and anxiety among teachers.

However, although the collective discomfort is a fact, from the Valladolid Diary they point out that the increase in these sick leaves may be related to how “easy” it is to achieve them: «They have given 200 days of sick leave due to depression to a worker with only one phone call». 

Economic losses for organizations

Who is responsible for paying me when I am sick?

The World Health Organization announces that “mental health problems will be the leading cause of disability in the world in 2030.” Each sick leave represents a cost to your organization in many aspects. The more at risk employees you have, the more money you are losing due to mental health issues. In the following Labor Issues article they explain this aspect in depth.


The historical moment we are in has not only favored a crisis in mental health, it has also meant great potholes in the world economy. Labor relations are increasingly precarious and pressure is mounting to adapt to change in the middle of  a sea of uncertainty. In this article they point out that 20% of sick leave due to common illnesses are caused by mental disorders.

"Mental health problems will be the leading cause of disability in the world in 2030."

In Europe alone, the economic cost of mental disorders is estimated at € 600 billion annually. This is related to a global loss of productivity and therefore to a fewer number of people working.

Can psychological treatment help?

The implications and impact of these data have led numerous researchers to study solutions to this problem. Next, we present the conclusions of the first study that has investigated the effect of psychological treatment on the sick leave trajectories due to mental disorders.

  • Three trajectories were identified: the “resilient – 47.7%” group, the “recovery – 31.8%” group and the “high risk – 20.5%” group.
  • After treatment, the first two groups returned to work productively and effectively, while the “high risk” group remained with high rates of sick leave. 
  • Age, gender or intensity of depressive symptoms could be determining factors for the treatment to work. 
  • The main conclusion of the study points to tailored psychological programs. If the specific characteristics of each group are taken into account, treatment works better and sick leave due to mental disorders decreases. For this reason, at Wemby we assign the professional that suits best for each user. Later, we design a tailored-made plan. We know that every environment, every organization and every person deserves specialized treatment.

How can I help my organization?

You can start helping your organization right now in order to minimize the impact of mental health issues. A good prevention strategy is key. Wemby will help you to have the appropriate tools and all the support you might need according to your teams’ concrete requirements. 

About the Author

Hi! I’m Laura Lillo, a forensic and clinical psychologist. I  strongly believe that psychology services should be accessible to all.  I’ve worked in prisons and with kids with risks of social exclusion. This has taught me the importance of constant learning and improvement as a person and as a therapist.

If I’m not cooking, drawing or singing, the most likely scenario is that I’m playing board games. Right now, I’m busy learning and writing content for Wemby, an online psychology platform. During my weekends I’m Game Master in Exit Madrid, a escape rooms company.

Wemby provides online therapy and wellbeing services delivered by experienced psychologists. Our team is here to help you start building your balance and emotional wellbeing today.

Download the app, complete a matching questionnaire and get paired with a therapist with the best licensed professional to match your needs.

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