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Depression. The topic few like to discuss. However, this disease affects many lives and businesses. Depression as defined in the Merriam Webster dictionary:

(1) : a state of feeling sad : dejection (2) : a psychoneurotic or psychotic disorder marked especially by sadness, inactivity, difficulty in thinking and concentration, a significant increase or decrease in appetite and time spent sleeping, feelings of dejection and hopelessness, and sometimes suicidal tendencies

With a definition like this, is it any wonder few discuss this topic. However, opening discussion and creating awareness about depression is necessary for the health of employees and the business’ bottom line. The Journal of the American Medical Association draws the sobering conclusion, that depression costs employers $44 billion a year in lost productivity. Those are strictly indirect costs; and do not begin to reflect medical costs.

Work is a big part of our lives. Depression can affect employees’ abilities to perform their jobs efficiently. The inability to concentrate fully or make decisions can lead to safety risks, accidents or costly mistakes. Other problems can include absenteeism, alcohol and drug abuse, or morale issues.

If five or more of the following symptoms persist for more than two weeks, medical attention may be called for:

  • Sleeping too little, or too much, difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • A persistent sad, anxious, or empty feeling
  • Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in almost all activities
  • Reduced appetite or weight loss or increase appetite and weight gain
  • Fatigue or low energy
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering things, indecisiveness
  • Feeling of worthlessness or excessive guilt
  • Restlessness, irritability

Fortunately, depression is not a life sentence. It is a very treatable condition.

If you suspect an employee is depressed, approach the employee and offer your support:

  • Confront the situation quickly in a caring and gentle way.  Express genuine concern.
  • Be empathetic and non-judgmental.
  • Listen.  Everyone has a story and wants to be heard. Do not try to solve the problem.
  • Provide a solution.  Refer the employee to the Employee Assistance Professional or have a referral to counselors available.
  • Follow up and provide a supportive environment.

In eighty percent of cases, successful treat is possible for people with clinical depression. With recognition, intervention and support, most employees can overcome their depression and push forward with renewed energy.

Vicki Prussak B.A., CWPM, ACE

Certified Wellness Coach

 

Sources:  Depression. 2013. In Merriam-Webster.com.  Retrieved April 2, 2013, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hacker

Stewart WF, Ricci JA, Chee E, Hahn SR, Morganstein D. Cost of lost productive work time among US workers with depression. JAMA. 2003 Jun 18;289(23):3135-3144.  Retrieved from http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=196767

 

 

 

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John sat at his desk, exhausted. Not being able to focus on his work that he was already behind on, he thought about how not only has he lost attention at work, but how his interest in most aspects of his life has also diminished. He realized his whole outlook had shifted. He no longer could see the positives, and could only dwell on the negatives.

John is not alone. Exhibiting symptoms of depression, he is one of approximately 18.8 million American adults who face depression each year. Depression ranks third for problems within the workplace for employees, only behind family crisis and stress, according to Mental Health America. Not only do employees report depression as a workplace issue, but depression is also something employers need to become increasingly aware of. Mental Health America calculates that untreated depression costs the United States over 51 billion dollars due to absenteeism and lost productivity.

What is depression? The National Institute of Mental Health defines depression as a combination of symptoms that interfere with a person’s ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy activities for an extended amount of time. Depression is a common, and serious illness. Symptoms include those that John was experiencing; fatigue, lack of ability focus, loss of interest in activities that were once joyful, and a hopeless outlook. For a full list of symptoms associated with depression, visit http://1.usa.gov/FQ7nn6. In the workplace, it is especially important to take note of a decrease in consistency or productivity and quality of work, an increase in absenteeism, errors, procrastination and incidences of withdrawal.

Luckily for John, his concerned wife was able to get him to see his doctor, who identified the problem. John started medication and quickly began to improve. John’s ability to get control of his depression isn’t the exception. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if diagnosed and treated about 80% of cases of depression can improve. Depression can be managed and employees can live a fulfilling and successful life even with this diagnosis.

Unfortunately, the negative stigma associated with clinical depression is making it hard for employees to seek treatment and disclose their diagnosis to colleagues and supervisors. Not everyone has the same support that John had, leaving them alone to handle their disease. Employees may not want to be judged or regarded any differently, and therefore keep their diagnosis to themselves, only increasing their level of stress.

Those with depression are now protected through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which expands employer’s responsibilities in making accommodations for employees with mental health disabilities as well. Employees with depression should now feel comfortable talking to their employer in order to reach a better understanding of the employee’s needs.

Employers and managers should be well versed in the Employee Assistant Programs that they offer their employees. Being familiar with the benefits available will allow employers to encourage employees to take advantage of these services.

Just like John, one out of every 10 American adults faces depression. Raising awareness among managers and employees helps to create an understanding and supportive environment for these employees. Not only could this type of positive workplace culture help to prevent depressive illnesses, it will also foster feelings of support and comfort for those already diagnosed. This allows employees to reach out, thus creating a stronger team and organization. Promoting a supportive and positive workplace environment is now more important as ever, as rates of depression continue to rise.


Kay Monks

Kay is a senior at American University in Washington, D.C, where she is enrolled in the Health Promotion Education program. Kay has been an intern with AdvancingWellness since early 2011.

This story is based on a compilation of stories I have heard through my work  as a registered nurse in the Emergency Department and Hospice.  For the purposes of the story that I feel very passionate about telling, Jake is the character that will represent all the stories I have heard and the situations with which I have been involved.  Although this story is not based on any one person, it is never the less completely true and accurate.

This is about the man of my dreams, Jake. He is my best friend and husband of 35 years.  He is 56 years old and has never looked or acted older.  He struggles everyday and it kills me to see him suffer.  You see, he was diagnosed with Coronary Artery Disease 18 months ago and he has not been the same since the doctors told him the blockages in his arteries were too risky for any type of intervention.  He had been having this pain in his chest and arms at night and every time we tried to go for our treasured walks in the woods.

I miss the old him. We used to hike into the middle of the woods and go camping year-round.  We loved nature. Being in the woods together was like our little piece of heaven on earth.  Now, I am sure neither of us knows where our  “heaven on earth” is any longer.  Jake struggles every day just to muster the strength to get to work.  It is not uncommon for him to miss 4-5 days monthly because he had a bad night and could not sleep.  He is always going between the bed and the chair.  It is rare that he even sleeps for more than 2-3 hours uninterrupted.  He says he gets “the pain” at night and his arms ache.  He gets up to “pop a nitro, or two, or three”, as he says.  He wears oxygen more and more all the time to help deliver more oxygen to his ailing heart. That just worries me terribly. I am afraid I will wake up to find my husband gone. I know it will happen at some point, but I am not ready.

The same company has employed Jake since we were married all those years ago.  His boss has been so kind and understanding about his illness and the fact that there is no cure. The strain on his co-workers has been enormous, however, and that wears on Jake, a lot.  He often talks about how he “burdens them” and how “they should just can him for being so useless”.  Jake was their best salesman and he has numerous awards of recognition adorning his office, resting in memory of who he was and what he could accomplish with ease.  Jake was the money-earner for the company at one time, now he is costing his employer thousands of dollars in health care claims and sick time.  In addition, his absenteeism is placing his responsibilities on the backs of all his co-workers and long-time friends.  These are the things that drive him further into depression. Depression makes his chronic illness more pronounced and the symptoms take over.  Jake, from his perspective, is no longer living life.

Research on chronic illness and depression indicates that depression rates are high among patients with chronic conditions:

Heart Attack: 40% -65% experience depression

Coronary Heart Disease (without heart attack): 18% – 20% experience depression

Stroke: 10% – 27% experience depression

Diabetes: 25% experience depression

Chronic Pain Syndrome: 30% – 54% experience depression

Most disease processes can be controlled through preventative health actions such as yearly visits to the doctor, weight management through proper nutrition and exercise and stress management.

Maybe going for regular check-ups at the doctor and listening to our bodies really is the best way to ensure the best life possible, unfortunately, for Jake, it’s just too late.

For more information on the link between Chronic Illness and Depression:

http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/chronic-illness-depression.

By Melissa Naborowsky, RN

Depression has always been a major mental health issue in America. But it‘s also, increasingly, a major workplace issue. A landmark 2003 study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association draws the sobering conclusion, that depression costs employers $44 billion a year in lost productivity. Those are strictly indirect costs; they don’t even begin to reflect medical costs.

Michael Mazaar, from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, states “Depression is now, in term of victims and economic impact, the world’s second most insidious illness, behind heart disease.”

Work is a big part of our lives. Depression can affect employees’ abilities to perform their  jobs efficiently. The inability to concentrate fully or make decisions can lead to safety risks, accidents or costly mistakes. Other problems can include absenteeism, alcohol and drug abuse, or morale issues.

Managers need to be aware of depression symptoms because employees often will not seek treatment because they fear the affect it will have on their job and are concerned about confidentiality. It is important to differentiate between depression and the blues, most people feel sad now and then.   Depression symptoms linger and interfere with an individual’s work or family life.  If five or more of the following symptoms persist for more than two weeks, attention is needed.

  • Sleeping too little, or too much, difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • A persistent sad, anxious, or empty feeling
  • Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in almost all activities
  • Reduced appetite or weight loss or increase appetite and weight gain
  • Fatigue or low energy
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering things, indecisiveness
  • Feeling of worthlessness or excessive guilt
  • Restlessness, irritability

If you suspect an employee may be depressed, here are things that can be done to approach the employee and get them back on track.

  • Confront the situation quickly in a caring and gentle way.  Express genuine concern.
  • Be empathetic and non judgmental.
  • Listen.  Everyone has a story and wants to be heard. Don’t try to solve the problem.
  • Provide a solution.  Refer the employee to the Employee Assistance Professional or have a referral to counselors available.
  • Follow up and provide a supportive environment.

In eighty percent of cases, people with clinical depression can be successfully treated.  With recognition, intervention and support, most employees can overcome their depression and push forward with renewed energy.

Valorie Bender