You’re not alone if you suffer from depression or other mental health conditions. The World Health Organization says that depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and estimates that approximately 264 million people live with its challenges.
One of the greatest challenges can be finding work that is both rewarding, and compatible with the ups and downs of depression. With that in mind, this article presents the 21 best jobs for people with depression.
- The Challenges of Working Around Depression
- Identifying the Best Jobs for People With Depression
- Best Jobs Working From Home
- Working Out and About
- Coping Strategies For Managing Your Depression
- Finding Help and Support
- While You’re Here
The Challenges of Working Around Depression
When you’re depressed, you might feel low, empty, sad and irritable for much of the day.
It might be hard to concentrate or sleep. Perhaps you find it hard to eat — or crave sugar or unhealthy food.
Maybe you suffer from headaches or fatigue to the point where it’s hard to get out of bed in the mornings. Or you might find it hard to be around other people — or, conversely – wish you weren’t alone with your thoughts.
General depression is very common, but other related mental health issues can strike, too. These include social anxiety, bipolar disorder, seasonal affective disorder, and panic attacks.
It doesn’t help to tell yourself to “snap out of it.” And it also doesn’t help when other people don’t understand what you’re going through. Some people even find themselves using all their sick days because they’re depressed, scared or anxious.
So, if you’re in a high-pressure career that doesn’t support you when you ensure a low spell, you might consider starting a new job search.
Identifying the Best Jobs for People With Depression
When you’re depressed or anxious, there are a few things to consider when choosing the best job for your needs and circumstances.
You may want a low-stress job and preferably few interruptions. You may work better in a quiet, calm environment, and you may not want to work long hours.
Interacting with large numbers of people may send your stress levels soaring. So you may wish to consider jobs where you’ll either work with few people or only see them for a short time.
You’ll notice we have included “may” in italics several times here. Everybody’s experience of depression is different, and one person’s panacea could be somebody else’s kryptonite. This list of jobs for people with depression is intended to provide hope and inspiration, and not to pigeonhole.
Ultimately, the best job for YOU is one that you enjoy doing, and one that plays to your strengths.
IMPORTANT: There’s nothing to say that suffering from depression precludes anybody from ANY particular career.
Some of the world’s most successful and high-profile people, from Winston Churchill to Angelina Jolie and JK Rowling, are known depression sufferers. These are merely suggested jobs that lend themselves well to flexible working and can bend around “up days” and “down days.”
So, let’s take the first step.
Here are 21 jobs that fit the bill when it comes to working while you’re depressed.
Best Jobs Working From Home
Perhaps your ideal job involves working from home?
There are various options for this, including setting up your own business, casual freelancing, or working remotely for a company or entrepreneur.
- No stressful commute or office chitchat
- Structuring your day so that you work when you feel best able to cope
- Optimising your work environment to suit your needs – silence or music, bright colours or calming pastels – the choice is yours.
1. Online Teacher
If you’re great at explaining things and like helping other people learn, then online teaching could be a great job.
Most people think of children when they consider teaching, but plenty of teenagers and adults want to learn new skills, too.
You might teach English at an online language school. Or you could start your own business and offer one-to-one classes over Skype or Zoom to immigrants who want to improve their conversational English.
Perhaps you’re a maths or science whizz and can offer students your services as an online tutor?
If being an online teacher sounds like a job for you, this article will show you where to start.
2. Virtual Assistant
A virtual assistant helps business people by taking routine admin tasks off their hands. In fact, you could prove to be invaluable to one or more busy entrepreneurs if you take the VA path.
You can be a generalist VA – dealing with emails and phone calls, entering data into spreadsheets, transcribing dictated letters and articles or creating PowerPoints and blog posts. Or, you can niche down and specialise by becoming a Social Media VA who takes care of your clients’ Instagram and Twitter accounts.
If you’re happiest typing on your laptop, and you find it easy to concentrate, then you might like to be a transcriptionist.
Transcriptionists listen to an audio text and then type it into written form. It can be challenging at first, but you’ll improve your speed and accuracy with practice.
If you have a medical background or interests, you might specialise in medical transcription. Similarly, if you have legal experience, you could become a legal transcriptionist and work exclusively for attorneys and lawyers. Closed captioning for videos is another option.
This kind of work is always in demand, and it comes with the convenience of being able to do it at the times that best suit your life (and your spells of depression).
4. Computer Programmer
There’s extremely high demand for computer programmers in the tech world.
The job involves writing and testing code so that applications and software programs function correctly. Programmers take the designs created by software developers and engineers and turn them into instructions that a computer can follow.
If you like nothing better than writing instructions and unravelling code, you’d probably enjoy being a freelance programmer. Or, if you want more income security, consider working for a remote-first firm. There are plenty of tech firms with a worldwide workforce.
5. Graphic Designer
Graphic designers create designs using artworks, images, fonts, background colours and pleasing layouts.
There are more possibilities for work than ever before, with jobs available in both printed and digital media. You can work with publishers and authors, magazines, advertisers, websites, sign makers and more.
Some graphic designers create cards and stationery. Others design book covers for indie authors, Shopify storefronts, Facebook campaigns for influencers or Pinterest pins.
Graphic design can be a perfect job for people with social anxiety or depression because you can often structure your workflow and surroundings. You can usually communicate with clients via email or on Zoom instead of having to meet in person, too.
6. Freelance Writer / Editor
Many people dream of being a writer, although it’s not the easiest career on this list.
But, if you love to weave words and create compelling stories, then freelance writing might be the job for you.
If you want to write books, you could choose from:
- children’s books
- science fiction
- romance novels
- murder mysteries
- self-help books
- how-to books
There’s a world of possibilities.
However, it takes a lot of perseverance to make money from writing and publishing a book. Many freelance writers instead write content for business clients – something we cover in detail in our guide to freelance writing jobs for beginners.
If you’d prefer to help other people craft their writing, then freelance editing or proofreading might suit, instead.
If you’re good with numbers and fascinated by finance and bookkeeping software, you might enjoy working as a freelance bookkeeper.
Bookkeepers help businesses keep track of their day-to-day transactions. They help monitor payroll, invoices, and the money coming in and out bank accounts. They also help firms reconcile their statements and make sure they’re ready when tax season comes around.
As a freelancer, you can work with one or more clients, depending on their needs and the amount of time and experience you have.
Small, local businesses and charities are good places to work for while you’re building up your business. That allows you to work mostly from home and gives you the freedom to visit them in person when necessary.
If you have the skills, starting a hairdressing business can be an excellent way to work from home (or by visiting peoples’ homes), if you don’t feel able to get out there and work in a salon.
There are two ways that many hairdressers work away from the pressure of the salon.
- Offer a mobile service, taking your equipment and skills to your client’s homes. You can offer a full cut and styling service or offer something super-niche like “hairstyles for special occasions.”
- Set up a hairdressing space in your own home and have clients come to you.
Each option has its pros and cons. But both let you work around other commitments and do as much or as little as you feel able to.
9. Make and Sell Crafts
If you are artistic and love working with your hands, you might like to turn your hobby into your job.
This Etsy jewellery article tells how one mum turned her skills into a full-time business. And we also have a case study of an artist who upcycles bottles.
With craft work, you can slowly build things up until the quantity of work suits you. If you prefer, you can sell online, or if you’d rather get out of the house, you have the options of markets and craft fairs.
10. Bake Cakes
Some artists work with paint; others work with cakes. If you love to make and decorate special occasion cakes, then this could be the right job for you to do in your own time
You’ll generally need to have your kitchen approved for commercial use. Then, you can set your own hours to suit and start selling at markets or through local advertising.
Be warned. Some cake making niches are more stressful than others. Wedding cake designers, for example, are under pressure to deliver a masterpiece on time (and budget.)
Birthday and special occasion cakes are less stressful, but why not think outside the (cake)box and start a cupcake business?
Another idea involves advertising to local offices, school staff rooms and small businesses that you supply delicious cakes and snacks for their special morning teas. Or, you could specialise in healthy ingredients and let people know that your cakes are good for them as well as delicious.
Working Out and About
Spending time in the fresh air can be helpful to combat the symptoms of depression and be great for your general health.
So it’s no surprise that many lists of the “best jobs for people with depression” include some interesting outside jobs as well as opportunities for low stress inside work.
- More chances for social interaction
- Set hours and a stable income if you’re working for someone else
- Changes in scenery and pace can help break up the day.
11. Park Ranger
What could be better than a job that takes you out into the natural wilderness? Becoming a park ranger is an excellent option if you want to get fit and are passionate about protecting natural areas.
Rangers maintain and protect unique and beautiful recreation and conservation areas of the world. These include national and regional parks and reserves, wetlands and forests. They also look after sites of cultural importance within their parks and ensure that visitors respect the land and wildlife.
Gardening is another job that gives you fresh air and plants but keeps you closer to home. And it’s work that presents you with many options.
Gardeners can work in plant nurseries and garden centres. You could join the crew looking after your town or city botanic gardens and parks, or set up your own small gardening business in your local area.
Many people love having gardens but can’t look after them regularly. Busy commuters, elderly folk, and even holiday homeowners need gardeners to keep their gardens flourishing. Another bonus — you can set your own schedule and work flexible hours when you need to.
Working with flowers can be lovely for people with depression or anxiety. As a florist or florist assistant, you work surrounded by colour and beautiful scents. You can also tap into your artistic side by creating floral arrangements for weddings and special occasions, or simple posies ready for walk-in customers.
Being a florist has a social component if you work in a shop, as you interact with customers. However, it’s important not to isolate yourself when you’re depressed, so having a role that involves talking to others and hearing their stories can help.
14. Postal Worker
The old image of a postie cycling from door to door is gone in many countries now. However, postal workers still get out and about in their local communities. It’s just that instead of cycling, they’re on e-bikes — or perhaps electric scooters or tiny vans, depending on where you live.
Delivering the mail still gets you out in the weather (rain or shine). It gives you a routine, too. Those are two important considerations for many people suffering from mental illness.
Posties often spend their first couple of hours sorting the mail before setting out to deliver it. Still, you’ll get plenty of alone time while you’re on your rounds.
15. Courier or Delivery Driver
Courier drivers typically deliver larger packages and documents than posties handle. People often use couriers when they want things delivered faster than by mail.
And there’s also tons of work for people delivering from restaurants and takeaways using services like Deliveroo and Uber Eats.
Being a courier driver means that you don’t have to sit behind a desk all day. You’ll find places around the city — or countryside — that you never realised were there before, and you’ll learn all the shortcuts.
As a driver, you could work for established courier companies, deliver for the postal service or potentially be your own boss by tendering for a delivery run of your own.
Librarians manage the library services in schools, universities and public libraries.
You usually need to have a degree of some sort and have good organisational and research skills to get full-time librarian positions.
If you don’t feel up to being a full librarian, consider being an assistant or volunteering to come in once or twice a week to help by shelving books.
Merchandisers unload supply trucks and stock shelves in large stores. It’s a great job option for people who prefer to work non-traditional hours. Merchandisers often work early mornings or night hours because shelves are usually restocked when the stores aren’t open.
It’s an active job, but one you don’t have to think about when you leave. One potential bonus for big warehouse merchandisers — you might get to learn to drive a forklift!
18. Dog Walker
If you love dogs, starting a dog walking business could be the perfect way to combine the benefits of fresh air and animal companionship.
So many people have to leave their dogs at home by themselves all day that the demand for dog walkers is booming in the United States and the UK.
Pets have got used to having constant company during the Covid lockdowns, too. So as workers head back to the office, it’s even more important to give their dogs some exercise and company while their owners are away.
If you can’t have dogs at home, then a dog walking service is the way to go. You can walk just one dog at a time — probably not economical if you want a full-time income — or several local dogs at the same time.
You might even decide to expand your services to include puppy socialising, dog training, or doggy daycare.
19. Work at an Animal Shelter or Park
Suppose you want to work with a wider variety of animals. There are plenty of options around, especially if you’re in a position to volunteer your time rather than having to work for money.
Some ideas include:
- Volunteer at your local Riding for the Disabled branch. You’ll benefit from the contact with horses and seeing the improvement and joy that each riding session brings.
- Work as an Animal Care Attendant to care for, and clean up after animals in kennels, pet shops and animal shelters.
- Work or volunteer at your local wildlife park or zoo. If your first instinct is “I couldn’t work with lions,” think again. City zoos can be large and complex, but there are thousands of smaller parks and public gardens with petting zoo animals and birds in aviaries to care for too.
20. Yoga or Fitness instructor
Many studies show that regular exercise helps people feel calmer and more content. That’s because when you exercise, it releases hormones and endorphins that boost your mood and energy levels and may allow you to sleep better at night.
Working in the health or fitness industry can be an excellent job for people suffering from depression, so long as you’re careful not to overdo it.
If you’re not interested in aerobic exercise, you might prefer the calm meditation and muscle stretching practises of yoga instead.
21. Massage Therapist
Being a massage therapist involves physical and mental activity, combined with quiet, soothing surroundings. You usually get to interact with people one at a time.
Massage therapists talk to their clients to discover where they’re hurt. Then they knead the muscles and soft tissues to relax, rejuvenate or help to repair them.
You’ll need to know about musculoskeletal structure and anatomy, learn massage techniques and gain a qualification from an approved provider before you can work as a therapist. Qualifications vary from country to country.
Massage therapy is a rewarding job. Options include full or part-time work at a clinic or spa, or you could set up your own business.
Coping Strategies For Managing Your Depression
Talking to People
If you are working while suffering from depression, finding someone to talk to (although this may feel like the last thing you want to do), can serve as a distraction and a boost.
Try going for a short walk and saying hello to a couple of people along the way. If you have a local shop, try to pop in every day – even if just for milk and bread. Adding routine into your day can be a real help.
If you are not ready to step into the outside world for to meet people, consider an online group for those with similar interests, e.g. an online book club.
Getting Out and Exercising
Almost every self-help book and article on mental health extols the mental health benefits of exercise. However, this advice often seems to miss the point that people struggling to get out of bed are hardly likely to consider going for a run.
That said, if you are feeling overwhelmed, just five minutes in the garden or a walk around the block can revive you and help you to relax.
If things are getting on top of you, switch the computer off for half an hour, turn off your phone and walk away. You will find it easier to come back refreshed after a break. Set yourself small goals. For example, you could aim to fill a bucket with weeds while outside. Giving yourself simple tasks to concentrate on can be of enormous benefit.
Cutting Back on Social Media
It’s so easy to become immersed in social media. Not only can you waste immense amounts of time, but many of the comments and themes online can be damaging to your mental health. Take a look at this article about quitting social media.
A healthy and balanced diet is important all the time, but it’s particularly crucial when you are suffering from depression.
Cooking a decent meal each day is probably the last thing on your mind. However, time spent preparing something can help you relax and be a little more mindful. There is also the added benefit of not having to rely on snacks and junk food – which really won’t help you to recover. Try to always eat a good variety of fruits and vegetables each day, and avoid caffeine and sugary drinks as much as possible.
Decide on some simple goals and try and stick to them every day. For more on setting goals and sticking to them, these 15 ways to get unstuck should help.
Talking openly and sharing your worries about mental health can be a great way forward. However, for many, taking that first step can seem tremendously difficult.
In recent years, several well-known people and celebrities have openly shared their own experiences of depression, anxiety and other conditions. I think – for young people especially – that this has helped encourage openness.
Finding Help and Support
From your Employer
If you currently work in a business environment outside of the home, you may receive support from your employer. In the case of a large organisation, this could come from an Occupational Heath department. Sometimes a more flexible working arrangement involving some home working can present itself.
Free External Help and Resources
Have a look for your local wellbeing service. What’s on offer can vary from country to country and from area to area.
- In the US, Mental Health America (MHA) is a good reference point for help and advice, and can point you in the direction of local services.
- In the UK, MIND, the Mental Health Charity, offers a large range of helpful guides and advice.
- There are also lots free resources on line websites such as NoMorePanic which provide excellent advice on a whole range of mental health issues.
- There’s a global list of resources and suicide hotlines here.
Limitless help is of course available – if you have the cash to pay for it. Unfortunately this may not be the case if you are working limited hours in the first place. Your doctor or support worker may be able to recommend the services and practitioners most suited to you.
You will undoubtedly get more tailored help if you opt for private therapy. In free settings, the professionals are often under pressure to deliver some kind of support in a limited timeframe.
One thing worth noting is that you shouldn’t completely dismiss the prospect of private therapy if you’re on a low budget. Many mental health professionals do some of their work on a “pro bono” or discounted basis. After a few therapy sessions, you could work through a selection of jobs for people with depression with your counsellor, and see if anything in particular appeals.
There are plenty of self help options out there, including no end of well-reviewed books.
Mobile apps are also worth a look. Thrive is one app that some people have found helpful, and Headspace is a meditation app that many people swear by.
Remember that mental health issues are not a “one size fits all” condition. People are affected in a host of different ways and the strategies that work for one person may not work for someone else. It is always best to discuss the way forward with your own physician.
While You’re Here
Working from home – remotely for a company or in a freelance capacity – can sometimes make life easier for somebody with mental health issues. However, there can be downsides, including a feeling of isolation. This was discussed in our previous article on social anxiety jobs from home, which is also a recommended read.
If you have issues with anxiety, we have a separate post on that issue, with lots more information, advice and suggestions. And if you’re still struggling for job ideas our article on No Career Interests Me might help you find a way forward.
Lyn is the author of Culture Smart NZ (2022). A freelance writer and blogger from New Zealand, she specialises in content for lifestyle magazines, blogs, podcasts and virtual summits. You’ll find her blog on writing, farm life & talented New Zealanders at lynmcnamee.com