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David Baxter

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Ipsos Reid study on depression in the workplace released today
Thursday, February 15, 2007
Mental Health Minutes
(statistical references from The Ottawa Citizen, February 15, 2007)

Overview

  • Fourteen per cent of Canadian adults have been diagnosed with depression by a doctor, with a higher incidence in women (18 per cent) than men (11 per cent).
  • Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed (72 per cent) know someone who has been diagnosed with depression.
  • Eight in 10 Canadians said they believe depression is a "life-threatening illness," while just 24 per cent think depressed people could "just snap out of it if they really wanted to."
  • Seventy-nine per cent of workers said they believe a person diagnosed with depression would keep the fact secret to avoid damaging their future opportunities at work, and nearly half believe someone missing work because of depression would be more likely "to get into trouble and maybe even fired."
  • Eighty-eight per cent of Canadians believe CEOs should make helping employees with depression "a key human resources priority."
Shannon Proudfoot of The Ottawa Citizen interviewed Donna Hardaker, a community mental health analyst at the Ontario chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association. Ms. Hardaker says workplaces are still "in the Dark Ages" in terms of dealing with depression. "When someone has depression, the symptoms co-workers see are behavioural," Ms. Hardaker says. "They don't see someone who needs to lie down, they don't see someone who has to go for chemotherapy treatment. Instead, they see someone who may be irritable, withdrawn, not meeting deadlines, blaming people for problems."

Why should employers care?
Hopefully, they care about the well-being of their employees, first of all. Secondly, mental illness costs Canadian businesses $33 billion a year in lost productivity (Global Business and Economic Roundtable on Addiction and Mental Health).

Employers need to take responsibility to help their employees both prevent and deal with mental illness. It can only lead to healthier, happier employees and a more productive workplace.

Some suggestions:

  • Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)
  • Stress management workshops
  • Adequate benefit coverage for professional counselling ($1000+ per year); psychologist visits are NOT covered by health care, at least not in the province of Ontario
  • At least 2 weeks vacation time permitted annually; ensure your employees take advantage of it each year ? this includes management
  • Flexibility for employees to attend medical or psychological appointments during the day as often as deemed necessary by the health care professional; allowing the employee to undergo treatment as early as possible. This will reduce missed work hours and sick days in the long run.
  • Modified work schedules for employees with persistent, but manageable, mental illness and for those who are re-entering the workforce after sick leave due to mental illness; in these cases a doctor?s note may provide proper instruction)
  • Most importantly, the employer should be approachable and understanding
 

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