Depression is a common medical illness that affects nearly one in 10 Americans each year. Unfortunately, half of employees affected by major depression are not diagnosed and usually go untreated, according to the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health. The good news is that treatment works: 80 percent of people with depression improve significantly with appropriate treatment, and almost all individuals receive some symptom relief and benefit from medical care.2
Left untreated, depression costs more than $51 billion in absenteeism from work and lost productivity and $26 billion in direct treatment costs2. Depression tends to affect people in their prime working years and may last a lifetime if not addressed. Below are some telltale signs that employees could be suffering from stress and possibly depression, anxiety, or other mental health conditions.
Recognize the symptoms
- Increasing frequency of sick days
- Loss of motivation
- Changes in social behavior in the workplace
- Incomplete duties or tasks
- Fatigue, tiredness, excessive yawning
- Restlessness or irritability
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions.
- Increasing number of absent days for other reasons
The ability to identify major depression in the workplace is often complicated by employees’ concerns about confidentiality or the impact it may have on their job. This may cause some people to avoid screening and/or treatment altogether. However, there are a number of strategies employers can pursue to reduce the stigma and provide support.
Tips for employers
- Educate employees and managers about mental health disorders, including depression. Encourage employees to seek care when they need it by educating the workforce that mental illnesses are real and can be effectively treated. Teach supervisors how to (and how not to) intervene appropriately by focusing on job performance.
- Screen for depression. Include depression screening in health risk appraisals and EAP programs. Work with health plans to incentivize clinicians to screen and ensure that appropriate systems are in place to follow up for diagnosis and treatment.
- Promote the use of employee assistance and health programs. Early intervention is key. Remind employees of the availability of resources for staying healthy and productive. Ensure that employees know how to access care confidentially and quickly. Heavily push these messages during times of stress, at the holidays, etc.
- Integrate mental health educational messages in health communication strategies. Include content about depression in company newsletters, on the intranet and in other regular employee communication platforms.
Clearly, promoting mental health in the workplace needs to be part of any company’s wellness initiatives. Working together, we can help take mental health out of the closet.