Depression, prominent as it is, is still considered the elephant in the room for many organizations. It’s definitely not something you hear about around the office water cooler. The CDC reports that 1 in 10 adults are affected, and the World Health Organization says depression may be the leading cause of disability. As many organizations are taking steps to enact “wellness programs” that heavily focus on weight loss and other healthy habits, some are taking steps to expose the elephant in the room to focus on mental health too.
Online Computer Library Center employs 1,300 workers globally. Their HR systems director, Susan Marsico, states that anti-depressant medication is one of the company’s top three drug classes and says that she feels there are many other employers who have the same problem. Her company already has a wellness-type program but Marsico wanted to revamp it to place greater emphasis on depression.
Utilizing Right Direction, a workplace campaign available from the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health and Employers Health, Marsico was able to integrate educational tools into the wellness program to increase awareness and help employees. The Partnership works to raise awareness and reduce the stigmas associated with depression and says the Right Direction program can easily be incorporated into existing wellness programs.
Employers can help reduce the stigma by creating a welcoming environment where employees feel comfortable seeking help, especially early on. Reaching out early is important for a lot of chronic illnesses, and depression is no exception. Director of the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health Clare Miller says there are things employers can do to help their workers.
- Get your leadership on board and make sure that is visible to your employees
- Use existing wellness programs to piggyback off of to make implementation of depression programs easier
- Emphasize confidentiality in your counseling services
- Think about your imagery. Miller says the posters of people with their heads in the hands are bleak and are not attracting people to seek help-but maybe doing the opposite.
According to the American Psychiatric Foundation, mental illness causes more days of missed work than any other chronic health condition. The American Psychiatric Foundation says that less than one-third of adults with a mental health disorder seek treatment- due to things like stigma, stereotypes and a lack of knowledge. Those are the kinds of things the program seeks to address. These problems will not just “go away on their own” as many seem to think. Likely, it affects you or someone you know and it is an important subject to breach in the office.