Addressing Workplace Mental Health Issues, Including Employee Depression

1. Introduction
In order for American businesses to be successful in a global economy, they must have a productive workforce. What happens when this workforce is suffering from a debilitating illness, such as mental illness? Is a productive workforce able to suffer from such an illness? This is a question that I often ask myself, and one that I will explore in this essay. In exploring this question, I will be drawing on evidence from an academic study done in New Zealand, in which sleep and mental health among a workforce were correlated (Clarke et al., 2006). The importance that this essay has is evident in the following quote: “Studies have demonstrated that the indirect costs associated with diminished productivity of symptomatic employees, absence from work, and reduced work efficiency on the job exceed the direct medical costs and represent a significant portion of the overall cost of depressive illness to employers” (Lerner et al., 1999).
1.1. Importance of Workplace Mental Health
A clearly communicated role within the organisation. Employees who do not know what is expected of them can become stressed and anxious. Providing employees with clear direction and identity can reduce these feelings, and can be achieved through effective management and regular discussion and review of employee roles.
A positive work environment that values and supports employees. This can involve identifying and utilising employee skills, providing ongoing development and training, and giving employees a level of autonomy in their role. Doing so can increase employee satisfaction and pride, which in turn enhances mental well-being.
Employers can create an organisational culture that enhances the well-being of its employees in a number of ways, many of which have a positive impact on the mental health of employees. The Centre for Workplace Mental Health (2017) identified the following protective factors that can reduce the risk of mental health problems occurring in employees.
Good mental health is fundamental for functioning well in everyday life, and is as important in the workplace as it is in our personal lives. As a result, the way in which a person’s mental health is handled by their manager and the culture of their workplace has a direct impact on that person’s productivity, morale, and well-being. One of the best ways to understand the importance of mental health in the workplace is to look at what employers can do to support the well-being of their employees.
1.2. Prevalence of Employee Depression
Mental health problems are one of the main causes of overall disease burden worldwide. Depression is cited as the third leading contributor to the global burden of diseases. A recent study of 24,000 employees in Europe found the average reported prevalence of depression to be 17.2% (range 2.8-28.4%). Depression has also been shown to have a higher prevalence among part-time workers compared to full-time employees. In another European study, depression was found to account for 50% of all absences from work and 37% of all work incapacity. The WHO has estimated that by the year 2020, depression will be the second leading cause of disability throughout the world. These figures and trends clearly indicate that depression is a highly prevalent disorder which will have an increasing impact on organizations throughout the world. Depression is a major cause of presenteeism (being at work, but not fully functioning) and employee turnover, which are both very costly for employers. It has been estimated that the economic burden of depression is 1% of the EU’s GDP, which equates to 200 billion euros. The impact of the recent COVID-19 pandemic is likely to further increase the prevalence of depression in the workplace. The pandemic has been associated with a large volume of job losses, financial strain, social isolation, and health anxiety due to increased risk and exposure to the virus. Recent data from the UK has shown that the prevalence of depression has doubled from 10% to 20% before and after the pandemic. Given the large impact and stigma of the mental health effects of COVID-19, it is likely these rates of depression will be further increased as the pandemic progresses.
2. Understanding Employee Depression
2.1. Definition and Symptoms of Depression
2.2. Causes and Risk Factors
2.3. Impact on Employee Performance
3. Creating a Supportive Work Environment
3.1. Promoting Open Communication
3.2. Encouraging Work-Life Balance
3.3. Providing Mental Health Resources
4. Training Managers and Supervisors
4.1. Recognizing Signs of Depression
4.2. Responding to Employee Disclosures
4.3. Offering Support and Accommodations
5. Implementing Mental Health Policies and Programs
5.1. Developing a Mental Health Policy
5.2. Offering Employee Assistance Programs
5.3. Providing Mental Health Training
6. Reducing Stigma and Promoting Awareness
6.1. Educating Employees about Mental Health
6.2. Challenging Stereotypes and Myths
6.3. Sharing Success Stories and Resources
7. Supporting Return-to-Work Programs
7.1. Facilitating Gradual Return-to-Work Plans
7.2. Providing Workplace Accommodations
7.3. Ensuring Continued Support and Follow-up
8. Monitoring and Evaluating Mental Health Initiatives
8.1. Collecting Data on Employee Well-being
8.2. Assessing the Effectiveness of Programs
8.3. Making Adjustments and Improvements
9. Collaborating with Mental Health Professionals
9.1. Partnering with External Resources
9.2. Consulting Mental Health Experts
9.3. Seeking Professional Guidance
10. Conclusion

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