Depression is at Work in the Workplace

Published: July 12, 2018

According to an article in, clinical depression has become one of America’s most costly illnesses. Left untreated, depression is as expensive as heart disease or AIDS to the US economy, costing over $51 billion in absenteeism from work and lost productivity and $26 billion in direct treatment costs.

Depression ranks among the top three workplace problems for employee assistance professionals, following only family crisis and stress. – Employee Assistance Professionals Association 1996 Survey

Considering how much time we spend at work, it’s not surprising that our jobs can be adversely impacted by depression. Depression tends to affect people in their prime working years and may last a lifetime if untreated. The good news is, more than 80 percent of people with clinical depression can be successfully treated. With early recognition, intervention, and support, most employees can overcome clinical depression and lead normal lives.

Seeking—and finding—treatment.

Though there has been a stigma surrounding mental illness in the past, it is much more common than you might think. Oftentimes a depressed employee won’t seek treatment because they fear the impact it will have on their job and they’re concerned about confidentiality.

Many employees are also unaware they have depression, or they fear their insurance is inadequate to cover costs. But most employers will refer a depressed employee for help if they’re aware of the symptoms, and 64 percent of National Mental Health Association survey respondents said they would refer an employee to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for treatment.

Equality Health is one company that does just that. It offers an EAP with confidential professional counseling to help employees deal with life’s challenges and the demands that come from balancing home and work.

Equality Health’s Vice President of Behavioral Health, Tasneem Doctor, says “Mental illness should not define an individual. The bias and stigma associated with mental health conditions often gets in the way of raising awareness and identifying early signs and symptoms of depression. Equality Health is committed to providing education around early detection, brief interventions, and appropriate referrals for those experiencing depression and other commonly known mental health symptoms. We want employees—and the community at large—to know you’re not alone.”

By the Numbers: How Mental Health Affects Americans

  • 1 in 5 (or 43.8 million) adults experience mental illness in a given year
  • 1 in 25 (or 10 million) adults experience a serious mental illness
  • 1 in 100 (or 2.4 million) live with schizophrenia
  • 2.6% (or 6.1 million) of Americans have bipolar disorder
  • 6.9% (or 16 million) suffer from severe depression
  • 18.1% (or 42 million) live with an anxiety disorder
  • 90% of those who die by suicide have an underlying mental illness

These staggering statistics indicate how common mental illness is among employees, yet only 41% of adults with a mental health condition receive help.

Signs of depression.

If an employee has five or more of the following symptoms lasting two weeks or more, they’re likely to be depressed.

Signs of Depression

So, what are mentally healthy workplaces?

Employers can be proactive in managing the mental health of their employees, whether they are experiencing a problem or not. Smart employers know that organizations are only as strong as their people and that the experiences, wellbeing and motivation of each worker are fundamental to how the organization performs as a whole.

“At Equality Health, we approach wellness in terms of the whole person, including the mental and emotional health of our employees,” says Kim Samuel, Vice President of People and Culture. “We understand that if you only look at physical disease and illness, you may only be addressing part of the individual’s needs and may be missing an important step in the path to wellness.”

“We encourage our employees to take advantage of all wellness opportunities, including our Employee Assistance Program, which is one of the more underutilized yet effective benefits that employers can offer employees and their family members.”

By positively managing and supporting employees’ mental wellbeing, employers can ensure that staff perform to their potential – allowing the business to achieve peak performance.