Sometimes the worst health issues are the ones we cannot see. Depression wrenches the heart, but often goes unrecognized. At work, it's a leading cause of lost productivity. Depression costs U.S. employers about $44B a year. That's largely because employers lose 27 work days a year for every employee with depression. Two-thirds of those lost days find workers present but too distracted to be effective on the job. And when depression comes along with another chronic condition, medical costs double or triple. In fact, the cost of depression outpaces most other chronic conditions. Despite this, 80 percent of people with symptoms of depression don't get treatment. Depression is hidden - but the social and economic costs demand that it brought into the light.
How Depression Stays Under a Veil
Depression takes many different forms. Sometimes it results from trauma. Other times, it can be a side effect of caregiving. Often, it occurs alongside challenging medical conditions. Depression is common among people with chronic pain, asthma, heart disease, COPD, arthritis and diabetes. It also creates increased risk for substance abuse, anxiety, and other mental and physical health issues. Cause and effect aren't always easy to separate.
Symptoms of depression vary from person to person. Some symptoms stand out, others seem subtle. Common signs include feelings of sadness, hopelessness and guilt. Sleeping or eating habits change. Energy fades. People struggle to concentrate. They can't make decisions. They lose interest in activities they once enjoyed. Depression increases sensitivity to pain causing people to complain of back or joint aches. Major depressive disorder is diagnosed when at least 5 symptoms strike over a 2 week period.
So why do we often miss the symptoms that would uncover depression? Depressed people tend toward isolation. People in general find it easier to avoid discussing certain feelings. But that makes symptoms more difficult to uncover and treat . Physical symptoms also command more immediate attention and mask underlying mental health conditions.
Physicians and other providers in medical settings face short appointment times and overbooked days. That doesn't leave time to fully probe a patient's condition. Without a clear diagnosis, patients who have had one major depressive episode face a much greater risk of having another one. Recurring physical symptoms also increase the likelihood of relapse. As symptoms continue and the person sinks deeper into depression, the onset of chronic disease becomes imminent.
The Good News
The right treatment helps most cases of depression. Countless studies demonstrate how much regular exercise helps people with mild to moderate depression. Exercise releases "happy chemicals" like endorphins (associated with the "runners high") and norepinephrine. These chemicals improve your mood. In some cases, doing 30 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week will outlast the effect of taking anti-depressant drugs. Exercise also lowers blood pressure and protects against chronic disease. So this approach to treating depression will leave the person healthier than ever. With better health and more energy, people struggling with depression can get back to the activities they love.
Your Healthstat Health and Wellness Center Can Help
Healthstat clinicians treat depression with the same level of care and compassion as any physical illness. Whether a patient needs medication, wellness coaching or both, our clinicians are trained to offer the right support to end the cycle of depression. They try to understand the full scope of a patient's current state of well-being. They have the time to talk. And they know how important it is to catch depression at an early stage. The universal screenings for depression that Healthstat does through its annual health assessments are also an important tool to uncover depression.
Healthstat offers a highly personalized online Depression Prevention Program. As part of our LifeStyle Management System, it provides individually tailored resources available on demand. Any internet ready device can be used – phone, tablet or personal computer. Each time an individual interacts with the program it delivers highly tailored feedback and encouraging messages targeted to that person's current state of mind. It also feeds data to the patient’s electronic medical record, visible to the Healthstat clinician.The clinical dashboard in the patient’s record displays the patient’s progress. This allows our clinicians to reinforce healthy prompts and messages. It also helps clinicians explore a patient's need for medication or additional therapy. The activities and messages within the program promote exercise, stress management, and other lifestyle changes that encourage positive thinking.
What To Do in the Workplace
Depression prevention efforts in the onsite clinic should be echoed in the workplace. Take steps to make the office a more pleasant, comfortable place where wellness is a priority for everyone. As an employer, learn how to identify signs of depression and direct people to the resources available in the clinic. Since treatment for depression aligns with a well-being approach, everyone should get involved regardless of their mental health status. Yoga sessions, field days, or weekly step challenges give employees a fun way to get active and socialize with co-workers.
Breaks for walking or stretching throughout the day can relieve stress and boost mood, creating a happier workplace for all. Office-wide education about quitting smoking or improving physical fitness is also beneficial for employees dealing with any level of depression. Employers can work with the onsite clinic to plan wellness events and put together educational materials on the many reasons to live a healthy life. And, of course, all employees should be encouraged to go to the clinic on a regular basis.