Depression and wellness are inextricably linked. Studies link depression to obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and premature aging. Conversely, treating depression can have benefits for the body: A depression study by researchers at the School of Science at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis found that, ” … treatment of depression before any apparent signs of cardiovascular disease can decrease the risk of future heart attacks and strokes by almost half.” And numerous studies point to the benefit of exercise in ameliorating mild to even severe depression.
But before you can treat depression, it needs to be identified. One of the primary barriers to people getting early treatment of depression is knowing and recognizing the signs of depression, which often go unnoticed. October 8 is National Depression Screening Day, an event held annually during Mental Illness Awareness Week. It encompasses a series of awareness events that include an optional screening component. It offers tools to learn the signs and symptoms of depression and take an anonymous online screening.
Why Screen for Depression?
- Clinical depression is a serious medical illness.
- Clinical depression can lead to suicide.
- Sometimes people with depression mistakenly believe that the symptoms of depression are a “normal part of life.”
- Clinical depression affects men and women of all ages, races and socioeconomic groups.
- One in four women and one in 10 men will experience depression at some point during their lifetimes.
- Two-thirds of those suffering from the illness do not seek the necessary treatment.
- Depression can co-occur and complicate other medical conditions.
- More than 80 percent of all cases of clinical depression can be effectively treated with medication, psychotherapy or a combination of both.
- Screenings are often the first step in getting help.
What employers can do
We offer these tips for employers that we previously issued in our HR Web Cafe posting, What employers can do to address health & productivity issues related to depression in the workplace.
- Include depression and other mental health issues as part of your organization’s ongoing health and wellness initiatives and focus. There can often be a stigma around mental health issues that serve as a barrier to getting help. Employees may also have fears about confidentiality and work status.
- Raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of depression among employees and supervisors. Issuing basic information about mental health matters, such as checklists of signs and symptoms of depression in a company newsletter, can also be very beneficial to both employees and the organization’s bottom line.
- Train managers and supervisors to be alert for changes in job performance that may reflect common symptoms of depression. While it’s not a manager’s role to be a counselor, managers are in a position to refer an employee to professionals such as an EAP who can help to discover the underlying reason for the change in performance. Supervisors should know how and where to make a referral for help.
- Promote the availability of confidential help: Your EAP 24 hour telephonic helpline is a start. Let employees know that they have access to depression screening, diagnostic and treatment services.
- Worksite health & wellness initiatives that offer fitness and nutrition programs, help for stress reduction and programs for substance abuse can also be good adjunct programs in preventing and treating depression.