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4 minute read |

Into the Light: Helping Employees Fight Depression

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.

Mental Health Care in the Clinic and Beyond

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.

Beyond the four walls of the health center, Healthstat offers a robust and scalable solution to meeting employee mental health needs. Our Ment4Me program closes the gaps in mental health care for your employees with easy, 24x7x365 access to professional services. Your employees will feel safe and confident being able to get help without having to raise a hand to ask for it. Ment4Me meets people where they are and how they want to connect.

  • Cost-effective solution that overcomes common barriers
  • Reduces stigma and fear of repercussions
  • Provides multiple ways to connect, from a chat bot to virtual visits with a Masters-level counselor to full integration with primary care

The Ment4Me program can be fully integrated with your onsite health center, or delivered as a standalone solution to close the gaps in mental health care. Ment4Me can offer both a safety net and a pathway to healthier, more productive living for employees and their families.

What To Do in the Workplace

Depression prevention efforts in the onsite clinic and with Ment4Me 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, if you currently sponsor a health center, all employees should be encouraged to visit on a regular basis.

Want to learn more about how you can support a more resilient and productive workforce with the turnkey options of Ment4Me?

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