National Depression Screening Day (NDSD), this year on October 9, is dedicated to raising awareness and screening people for depression and related mood and anxiety disorders. NDSD is a voluntary, community based screening program that gives access to validated screening questionnaires and provides referral information for treatment. Individuals can locate a mental health screening site or take an online screening at www.HelpYourselfHelpOthers.org.
How does mental illness affect your life? It is likely that you and every employee in your place of work know someone who has a mental illness. In fact, it is estimated that about one-third of those with a mental illness are employed. And according to the National Institute on Mental Illness, nearly a quarter of the U.S. workforce (28 million workers ages 18-54) will experience a mental or substance use disorder. Some of the most prevalent mental illnesses in the workplace include:
Despite these significant statistics, 71 percent of workers with mental illnesses have never sought help from a medical or mental health specialist for their symptoms. One of the most undertreated and misunderstood mental illnesses in the workplace is depression. The mood disorder is more than a passing feeling and is a major, but treatable, illness. Depression affects people in all walks of life. No job title, organization or personality type is immune.
When left untreated, mental illness can be costly to both the individual and the workforce. A RAND Corporation study found that people with depressive symptoms spend more days in bed than those with diabetes, arthritis, back problems, lung problems, or gastrointestinal disorders. Depression accounts for close to $12 billion in lost workdays each year. Additionally, more than $11 billion in other costs accrue from decreased productivity due to symptoms that sap energy, affect work habits and cause problems with concentration, memory and decision making. These costs can increase even more if an employee’s depression is linked to substance abuse.
The good news for employers and employees is that mental illness is treatable. According to the World Health Organization, the vast majority (60-80 percent) of people with a mental health disorder will improve with proper diagnosis, treatment and follow-up.
Some ways that make a workplace mentally healthy include:
Early intervention and prevention programs can be fundamental in preventing progress towards a full-blown disease, controlling symptoms of mental illness, and improving outcomes. Anonymous online screenings are an effective way to raise awareness. A screening program can also work well for small organizations that lack official EAP services.
If you or someone you know may be suffering from depression, visit www.helpyourselfhelpothers.org to take a free depression screening.
Information for this article was obtained from: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Workplaces That Thrive: A Resource for Creating Mental Health-Friendly Work Environments. SAMHSA Pub. No. P040478M. Rockville, MD: Center for Mental Health Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2004.