Like many people, I am not a fan of winter. Gray, overcast days with chill winds and early nightfall leave me yearning for green leaves, fresh blooms and warm sunshine on my face. While many people may be a little blue this time of year, others are struggling with a condition that goes far beyond this – clinical depression. According to Mental Health America, clinical depression is responsible for more than $50 billion in absenteeism yearly in the United States. Direct treatment costs annually exceed $26 billion dollars. Here are a few more facts about clinical depression:
- Depression ranks among the top three workplace problems for employee assistance professionals, following only family crisis and stress.
- Depressive disorders account for three percent of short term disability days.
- In a study by First Chicago Corporations, depressive disorders accounted for more than half of all medical plan dollars paid for mental health problems. The amount for treatment of these claims was close to the amount spent on treatment for heart disease.
- Nearly 15% of those suffering from severe depression will eventually take their own lives.
This is a topic with which I am all too familiar. I was diagnosed with unipolar clinical depression in my early twenties. Thanks to counseling and proper medication, today I live a full, rich and rewarding life. There are many people, however, who are not as fortunate. They are our team members, co-workers and supervisors. Some people who suffer from depression do not seek treatment because they do not understand what is happening to them, deny that they could be suffering from depression or fear the costs and/or stigma associated with seeking treatment for depression. Some of the symptoms of depression include:
- Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood.
- Sleeping too little, early morning awakening or sleeping too much.
- Reduced appetite and/or weight loss, or increased appetite and weight gain.
- Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, including sex.
- Restlessness and irritability.
- Persistent physical symptoms that don’t respond to treatment such as headaches, chronic pain or digestive disorders.
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions.
- Fatigue or loss of energy.
- Feeling guilty, hopeless or worthless.
- Thoughts of suicide or death.
For IST employees who think they may be suffering from the effects of depression, a good place to start is our Employee Assistance Program or EAP. Our EAP is provided through UNUM/LifeBalance. UNUM/LifeBalance is a third-party provider that is not a part of IST or affiliated with IST. Employees who contact UNUM/LifeBalance speak with counselors who – unless they learn that a caller plans to harm him/herself or another person – keep the call strictly confidential. The counselor can help the caller access vital resources including psychotherapy services. The toll-free number for LifeBalance is 1-800-854-1446 and their website is lifebalance.net. If you, or someone you work with, is struggling with depression please get help. Just as winter eventually gives way to spring, proper treatment can ease the debilitating effects of depression and significantly improve one’s quality of life.