Investing in Workplace Depression Treatment

New studies released by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) call for an integrated approach that incorporates clinical, community and workplace programs to better manage depression in the workplace.

Of the more than 6 percent of the workforce struggling with depression, only half receive treatment, and even fewer receive care consistent with current treatment guidelines, the research revealed. Depression is linked to increased unemployment and absenteeism, decreased productivity, disrupted work organization and increased health care and disability costs.

According to the ACOEM studies, employers may be able to influence the treatment and recovery of workers suffering from depression.

“An expanded role for employers and occupational health professionals in the management of depression and other chronic diseases is seen as fundamental to maintaining a healthy and productive workforce,” wrote Dr. Garson M. Caruso and Dr. T. Larry Myette, co-directors of the ACOEM Depression in the Workplace Project.

Treatment through Collaboration

The research discusses several promising approaches to help prevent or lessen the severity of depression, including programs to improve coping and stress management skills, identifying at-risk employees and promoting early treatment.

Researchers stressed that new “collaborative care” approaches may improve depression treatment outcomes by integrating community, workplace and clinical treatment options. This intensive approach bears higher initial costs, but ultimately make good business sense because more effective treatment leads to better productivity and employee retention.

Enhanced depression care programs, the studies show, should be viewed not as an added cost, but as a “human capital investment opportunity.”

Fifteen papers addressing workplace depression will be published in a special issue of ACOEM’s Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine and will be presented April 16 during the American Occupational Health Conference. For more information on the conference, visit http://www.acoem.org/aohc.aspx.

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