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Offering Workplace Support For Coping With Depression

by Jason Richmond, Anthem

October 23, 2017

Depression hurts. It can take away the simple joys. It can make you feel hopeless and worthless. And it can affect your sleep, appetite, energy, and ability to concentrate.

We know depression hurts people, families, and communities. It also hurts the economy.

Tomorrow, 548,000 Americans will call in sick or have trouble working because of depression. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that depression costs U.S. companies:

  • About five extra missed work days yearly.
  • 5 days of lower productivity for each affected employee every three months.
  • A total of $17 to $44 billion in lost workplace productivity.

In fact, studies show that across all health conditions, depression has the biggest overall impact on an individual’s work performance.

On the rise

These numbers are especially troubling because depression has become so common. In 2015, 16.1 million Americans ages 18 and over said they’d experienced it over the past year. And the World Health Organization projects that depression will be the second leading cause of disability throughout the world by 2020.

Fighting the stigma

Depression, like other mental health conditions, isn’t always seen as an actual health issue requiring medical support, intervention, and compassion. People who live with it may feel judged, embarrassed, and even ashamed because they can’t “just get over it.”

In the workplace, shifting the focus away from this misconception and toward awareness presents some challenges, but also great opportunities. That’s where an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can make a difference.

This type of voluntary program offers employees support for personal or work-related problems that may adversely affect their health, well-being, and job performance – including depression and the things that contribute to it. Whether employees are struggling with child or elder care, financial or legal problems, grief from losing a loved one, or divorce, an EAP offers counseling services and tools that can help.

An EAP also works with companies’ Human Resources departments and management to provide:

  • Depression screenings. (One recent study found that more than half of workers who took part in a depression screening then sought treatment within three months.)
  • Print and online resources about symptoms, coping skills and treatment options for different types of depression, including seasonal affective, bipolar and postpartum.
  • Educational trainings, webinars, eLearning modules, podcasts and links to sites focused on depression and mental health for managers and employees.
  • Access to convenient telehealth counseling and digital self-help tools.

Let’s spend more time talking about depression and what it can mean for employees and the workplace. We can stop the hurt together.

Jason Richmond, LMHC, CEAP, is Regional Vice President of Behavioral Health and EAP at Anthem, Inc.