5 Signs of Depression and How to Help

A sagging economy can sap motivation in many brokers and sales associates. For others, it triggers true depression.

April 1, 2009

Watch for five signs that members of your team could benefit from professional help.

1. Loss of interest in what they love. If associates suddenly clam up about their passions, approach them in a friendly manner to ask why. You may learn they don’t have the funds to pursue their interests. Or, their response may show lethargy and indifference, which are symptoms of depression.

2. Low energy. Look for a break in an exercise regimen or a change in weight (loss or gain). "A change in living patterns is a sign of something—it could be positive or negative," says Michael Soon Lee, CRS®, GRI, broker-owner of Realty Unlimited in Dublin, Calif. "If sales associates stop pursuing their hobbies, stop exercising, and develop bags under their eyes, they may have some issue in their life."

3. Serious negativity. "Depression can show up as anger or aggression," says Kristine Halverson, a sales associate at 360 Realty in Los Angeles who has a degree in psychology and experience as a social worker. "I’ve run into associates who are easily irritable or too aggressive. I’ve also seen sales associates who are overly sarcastic about the market." Alone, those could simply be rude behaviors. Combined with other symptoms, they could be alarm bells.

4. Relaxed work habits. When you see once-busy associates rolling into the office at 11 a.m., sluggishly doing work, and then heading home at 3 p.m., take note. "Depression throws us off balance," Halverson says. "There are things we need to do every day whether we have clients or not—come in on time, make phone calls, and do lead generation. When you’re not doing those things in this market, you’ll get depressed."

5. Inability to concentrate. A lack of focus can show up in sloppy paperwork or associates’ interactions. "Their speech could be a little slower," explains Halverson. Maybe there’s a pause when they answer you, or it’s harder for them to gather their thoughts. "Any one of these problems is a sign of danger," says Lee. "More than one is reason to refer the associate to a mental health professional."

How to Respond?

  • Raise the issue. "Talk about things you’ve noticed, whether they’re drinking more, working out less, seeming sad, or coming into the office less," says Halverson. "Then say, 'I have resources I can share with you.' If they’re open to the idea of professional help, give them a couple of options—a private psychologist, which health insurance will help pay for, and a community resource that’s free."
  • Have options ready. In many areas, dialing 211 connects you to local health and human services resources. And don’t forget to gather recommendations for debt counselors and mortgage foreclosure prevention specialists.
  • Act now. "It’s best that brokers say something in the early stages of awareness, when it’s situational depression, rather than waiting until it snowballs into a much larger issue of clinical depression," Halverson says.