News & Blog

Depression and work


In this blog post volunteer project assistant Bianca Jensen discusses the equality and rights implications of  depression in the workplace.


Depression affects a huge amount of the people in our society, and if you have it, you may know it’s often missed when we talk of equality and rights.

Depression can be harder to spot than physical disabilities but can still have a huge impact on our lives. The experience can be made worse because we can hide how we feel due to stigma, feelings of inadequacy and shame. The impact of depression also flows into our work lives and can result in discrimination.

Personal Experience of Depression at Work

Susan who’s been a long-time sufferer of depression shared her experiences. “The anxiety from past negative experiences can stay with a person for a long time. I still remember the cruel words of people, voicing opinions about me that weren’t constructive or kind. At the time I knew I was falling behind in things, coming in late and becoming reactive. I found it incredibly difficult to deal with this since I felt out of control and helpless to change. The cutting remarks from managers and co-workers just added to the shame and isolation I was feeling. They ultimately added to my lack of self-esteem which kept me in the downward spiral longer”

In my experience, one reason this kind of discrimination happens is because it’s not understood, therefore the symptoms are attributed to something else.  An example is when someone starts coming into work late, losing confidence and their productivity falls compared to their workmates. A colleague or manager may assume that they are just being inconsiderate and a bad employee but it’s the underlying issue of depression, not a character flaw.

Equalities Act 2010

A very important thing to know is that the Equalities Act 2010 classifies depression as a disability and therefore it’s covered by the same protections as other disabilities. This means that an employer can’t treat someone less favourably or fire them based on depression or for a reason relating to depression.

Employers are also under a responsibility to implement a reasonable adjustment to the workplace or the role if the disability puts the employee at a substantial disadvantage compared to their colleagues. In plain language this means that if you’re finding it much harder than your workmates because of depression, your employer needs to put things in place that can help you. These can be a wide range of things like allowing time away from work for appointments, time to collect yourself during stressful times or giving you a permanent desk rather than hot desk if you’ve got social anxiety. The changes vary between people and workplaces.

Benefits of a Diverse Workplace

In case you feel worried about asking for special treatment or being a bother, there’s a lot of research that states having a diverse workplace can be better for everyone involved. The benefits are substantial and include:

  • Having a range of perspectives and ideas which fosters creativity and innovation
  • A raised profile in the community
  • Growing your talent pool by attracting a wider range of candidates to vacancies
  • Improving morale when people know inclusivity is important. This can lead to better working environments and increased productivity


Personal Experience after Learning Coping Strategies

Susan is now in a much better space. She knows her own early signs of depression and has systems in place for heading it off before it gets too bad. She also deals with work better by knowing her limitations. “While before I used to run myself ragged trying to accomplish everything and more, I’ve now got an appreciation of working smarter not harder to get the work done. I’ve also acknowledged my perfectionist and people pleasing tendencies and know not everything will be 100% up to my standards, or all people happy, but that’s ok”. These things are all a part of a bigger plan to prioritise taking care of herself. She also mentioned that “I think I’m a sincerely happier person now and more capable of dealing what the world throws at me in a healthy way.”

Intersectional Discrimination

It’s good to be aware that depression can be part of “intersectional” or “multiple” discrimination. This is where people have several protected characteristics therefore experience a more severe form of discrimination. When dealing with other types of discrimination depression can sometimes compound the problem.

Further Information

This blog only scratches the surface of this subject, so if you want more information please read Blurt it out’s article, Depression: Your Rights at work, which covers your rights in much more detail.

My favourite quote that helped cut through some of my own fear and shame is that “having depression doesn’t mean you’re weak, you’ve just been strong far too long”.

A note for those dealing with depression: You are not alone, and it does get better! Reach out to someone you trust, and if they don’t understand keep trying other people until you find someone who does. Talk to a doctor and discuss options, there are a lot of options out there.

If you need help please contact one of the NHS recommended helplines here.

This applies to UK only, different countries will have different laws.


Sexual Health Week

An opinion piece from EaRN project assistant Jenni, talking about consent in our sexual health choices.


It’s  Sexual Health Week 2018 (24th- 30th September) and the theme is consent. I want to share with you my thoughts, discuss contraception and sexual well being.

First of all, a disclaimer, I have never written a blog post before. I’ve written pieces of academic work, I have scrawled my feelings into a diary and often after a few glasses of wine tried to organise my life into an iPhone note scattered with misspelling. So, this may turn out to be a mash of all three but I hope you find it interesting.

It is worth saying that everyone deserves the right to happy, fulfilling relationships and sexual intimacy if they want with whomever they choose.

This is coupled with the knowledge of how to take care of oneself to enjoy these relationships to the fullest. Knowledge of contraception, what you like and don’t like, understanding how important your emotional wellbeing is and how your contraception among other things may affect that.

On the Family Planning Association website, they wrote “Consent: Yes, yes, yes! will be talking about how consent is about far more than saying ‘No’ to unwanted activity. It’s about listening, negotiating, and enthusiastically agreeing.”

As a former anthropology student when I hear the word consent I think of ‘informed consent’. By which I mean knowing all the options and being given time to weigh them up, to decide for yourself what is the best course of action. Knowing what you are getting yourself into. This is SO relevant when it comes to your sexual health. Listening, negotiating and enthusiastically agreeing with your doctor about appropriate healthcare is key.

Leaving Northern Ireland where as a young person I was taught abstinence or hell fire, or an even worse outcome at that point pregnancy, coming to university I really had to do a lot of the research into contraception myself. With such repressed ‘education’ on sex and sexual health in Northern Ireland many young people are left feeling embarrassed, even guilty, by the whole ordeal.

Shame is interesting in that it is a learned response to societal pressure. Despite how much more empowered women appear in the media, the volume of ‘feminist’ merchandise the high street flogs on us, we deserve better than to feel restricted and embarrassed in taking charge of our sexual selves. I am thankful to have such strong female friends in my life who are not ashamed to talk about their sexual health, were open to questions, chatting about periods, we had a box of condoms in the shared bathroom and we would chum each other to the clinic for screenings.

Now this is the part where things get tricky. “Imaginary female trouble” is a phrase I was reminded of recently thanks to a designer, mental health activist and general good human on Instagram roobs_grlclb. What she says with more poetry than I can manage is that we live in a world where women, even when we try to voice our opinion, when we are trying to make informed choices that affect our bodies we are made to believe we don’t know ourselves.

In my opinion and experience, and the lives of people close to me often when it comes to contraceptive choices we are told that we just need to wait out the side-effects, the hormones will settle down. But what happens as a result of this dismissal is our ability to choose and negotiate is removed. Our feelings are invalidated. Side-effects can interrupt your day-to-day living, your relationships, and strikingly it takes on average 7.5years for an endometriosis diagnosis.

In the past whenever a woman was ill the umbrella term “hysteria” was used to explain away symptoms. For the low down on how this played out through the years, an explanation of the ‘trust gap’, with some excellent illustrations follow the link; The Dark History of Hysteria. This is “imaginary female trouble”. It encompasses plenty of other experiences outside of contraception (think gaslighting) and is directly the result of a patriarchal society and will be felt more acutely in all instances by people of colour and marginalised groups.

To sum this up, I want to re-iterate that consent is so incredibly important in your relationships and in your health and wellbeing. It should be taught from a young age that we all have the right to our own bodies and to treat them, and each other’s with respect in all instances. Doctors have a duty of care, to give you all the options and do not feel ashamed to use your voice to ask questions and be fully informed about your options. Whether is it contraception, pregnancy, abortion, your mental heath, your physical being; own your choices and do what is best for you.


Jenni McCandless. EaRN project assistant.




NHS Lothian Equality Outcomes and British Sign Language Plan

NHS Lothian are looking for your views on their draft Equality Outcomes for 2018-2021 and their British Sign Language Plan for 2018-2021.


NHS Lothian Equality Outcomes 2018-2021

As part of their statutory duty under the Equality Act 2010, NHS Lothian must publish equality outcomes every few years and report on progress towards meeting them. The NHS Lothian Equality Outcomes set out their approach to improving equity and justice – for the people of Lothian, and for our own staff.

As part of the process so far EaRN members took part in a workshop with NHS Lothian in June which helped shape the content and themes of the draft document.


NHS Lothian BSL Plan 2018

The NHS Lothian British Sign Language Action Plan tells you what they will do in response to the commitments the Scottish Government has made in the Scottish National BSL Action Plan (October 2017). It also includes actions they will take in response to things people told us in the local engagement events and process earlier in 2018.


The consultation for both documents is open until Friday 7 September 2018 so get your views in now. To see the draft documents please click on the links above and to submit your feedback click HERE.



Community Transport Survey Results

Over the last few months the Equality and Rights Network have been assisting the City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) and the Edinburgh Community Transport Public Social Partnership (CTPSP) by undertaking a survey on the future of Community Transport services in the city. The results of this will feed into a wider consultation exercise on Community Transport.

The PSP is considering Edinburgh’s first long-term strategy and action plan for community transport and is compiling a range of evidence to help inform the content. How people use these services is a key element of data which will help grow and develop these services for the future.

Some of the headline figures to come out of the survey are that over 66% of respondents would like to make greater use of Community Transport services in the future, with 74% saying an expansion of community transport services should be a top priority.

For further information on the survey results and the wider consultation please contact Frank Henderson, City Wide Service Manager at The City of Edinburgh Council –

EqualiTEA & Cake is back!

We are delighted to say that our second EqualiTEA & Cake drop-in is taking place on Thursday 26 July from 12.30pm-3pm at North Edinburgh Arts, 15a Pennywell Court, EH4 4TZ.

The aim of these relaxed, informal sessions is to encourage conversation about equality and what it means to you and your community. As well as supplying the all important tea and cake, EaRN staff and volunteers will be on hand to help guide the discussion.

Hope to see you there!

Human Rights Update

In this blog Equalities Ambassador Luke Padfield provides an update on the legal status of international human rights treaties in Scotland.

It is well known that in March 2018, the Scottish Parliament passed the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Legal Continuity) (Scotland) Bill, and that this bill, which expressly retains the EU Charter on Fundamental Rights, has been passed to the Supreme Court.

What is less known is that in October 2017, the Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC) advertised an invitation to tender to look at issues associated with the incorporation of human rights treaties.[1] Specifically, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Human Rights is a devolved matter for the Scottish Parliament. It therefore has the power make these rights legally enforceable.

The SHRC advocated support for ‘incorporation’ defining it as “domestic justiciability of international standards, particularly economic and social rights”.  Broadly speaking, justiciability is the difference between immediately enforceable rights (justiciable) and rights that are progressively realised over time (non-justiciable).

The tender was awarded to Dr Katie Boyle of the University of Roehampton who is due to produce a report in the coming months. The research was supported by 5 thematic workshops held on the subjects of:

  • Right to Social Security
  • Right to Food
  • Right to Housing
  • Right to Health
  • Strengthening Economic and Social Rights Protection in Scotland.

More recently, the Equalities and Human Rights Committee in the Scottish Parliament held an inquiry asking what the Scottish Parliament can do to develop its role as a Human Rights Guarantor.[2] It is understood that, among other things, they are considering human rights training for all MSPs and MSP staff.

Further, the First Minister has recently appointed an Advisory Group on Human Rights Leadership. It is understood that the group is currently considering the possibility of incorporating human rights treaties into Scots Law.[3] The group is specifically considering the incorporation of economic, social, cultural and environmental rights. The incorporation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is also being considered. The findings of the group will be delivered in Dec 2018 and will be based on a participative process.