by Dr. Elizabeth King
According to research, depression affects approximately 17 million employees in the United States. This is a staggering number that can’t be ignored. With the bottom line being impacted, CEOs are paying much closer attention to what they need do to assist their employees that are suffering from this disorder. Many companies have even started to implement in-house referral and education programs that help address depression.
There are many reasons why depression in the workplace exists, including internal and external factors such as real or perceived company discord and disorganization, familial dysfunction, and physical and mental illness, to name a few. Prompt identification of symptoms and intervention are crucial when it comes to depression because of the high risk of suicide. This is especially true for women. Research indicates that 15 percent of women suffering from severe depression will commit suicide.
There are clear indicators that an employee needs help. Although there are many reasons why an employee may have changes in behavior, it is advised the management team act quickly if an employee is displaying several of these symptoms at the same time and no other explanation is apparent:
Decreased or inconsistent productivity
Absenteeism and/or tardiness
Sub-standard quality of work
Frequent comments about being tired
Emotional reaction – sadness or anger
Decreased interest in work
Difficulty learning and remembering
Slowed movements and actions
The following 7 step approach to dealing with depression in the workplace is an effective way to provide the education and support that is needed to help employees in any size company:
1. Cultivate a fair and caring environment where employees feel appreciated and valued
2. Provide all employees education about depression and manifestation of symptoms
3. Provide appropriate intervention to mediate negative work-related stressors, e.g. workplace bullying, etc.
4. Address sources of stress outside the workplace such as family life changes and personal demands
5. Improve employee trust of the organization by incorporating programs that help promote team connections
6. Offer employee self-help programs which will help address stressors they may be experiencing, e.g. in-house physical exercise programs, parenting workshops, yoga, stop smoking classes
7. Provide professional mental health support. Mid to large companies: establish an employee assistance program (EAP) as a means to address employee depression. On-site counseling and support groups can be a great fringe benefit that will pay for itself. Cultivate relationships with qualified mental health professionals in your community to be used as resources. Small businesses: establish a referral system with qualified mental health professionals in the area that you can refer to at a moment’s notice. Coordinate wellness presentations with these professionals; most of them will be happy to provide workshops or seminars free of charge.
Elizabeth King, EdD, LCSW, CHt, founder and CEO of International Holistic Center (IHC), is an internationally recognized wellness expert, holistic psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, Certified Ondamed practitioner, empowerment strategist, author and speaker. She provides corporate wellness programs from small to large companies. Tune in to “Dr. King’s Health Fusion Hour”, 1470am, Thursdays at noon with replays Saturdays 7pm. IHC specializes in fusing conventional and nonconventional approaches to treat the whole person. Visit IHCHealthFusion.com or call 954-903-9426. See page 21.