Depression Discussion: Website Gives Workers Tools to Talk

On the pages of a new on-line portal aimed at raising awareness about mental health and wellness in the workplace, a friendly looking, tie-wearing, big brown bear greets you from the depths of a scenic forest. The front page of reads, ‘When you’re depressed at work, it can feel like you’re lost in the woods alone. But there’s help, and you can find your way out.’

This is the message from the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health, which is an arm of the American Psychiatric Foundation that has joined with Employers Health to launch Right Direction. The website has been designed to educate employers and employees alike about depression, in order to reduce stigma and increase the chances of people asking for help. According to Marcas Miles of Employers Health, who oversees programmes and community outreach for the non-profit coalition of health care providers, ‘In my experience, depression has been on the radar, but not a topic that employers typically have wanted to address head-on.’

Mile explained that the Right Direction initiative was born because while employers are aware of how depression can affect an employee’s wellbeing, they don’t necessarily have a direction to start the conversation. However, research indicates that we need to address the issue of depression in the work place, as mental illness short-term disability claims are growing by 10% annually and mental disorders were involved in more than 9% of long-term disability claims in 2012.

Not only does depression harm the employees’ wellbeing, but corporate wellness can suffer also. Depression is a leading cause of lost productivity in the United States with an annual cost of $44 billion to employers. Clare Miller, director of the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health, noted that work stress can further complicate depression. She said, ‘Someone with clinical depression may be especially vulnerable to highly stressful situations, especially if their depression is not adequately managed.’

Robert Leahy, PhD, the director of the American Institute for Cognitive Therapy and author of Beat the Blues Before They Beat You: How to Overcome Depression, commented, ‘There has been a significant rise in disability claims in the last two years, some of them related to psychiatric problems. I have seen a dramatic increase in generalised anxiety, marked by excessive worry, focused on the possibility of losing their job.’ He added, ‘There are increasing demands for productivity to increase profits, while support staff has shrunk. Moreover, people often report feeling stuck in a no-win, glass-ceiling job, but they fear being out in the market place in such difficult times. As a result they feel trapped and helpless.’

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