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August 13, 2002
Employers Still Grappling With Depression
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>Nineteen million Americans suffer from depression each year, and employers recognize that it impacts productivity. Yet according to Washington Post columnist Amy Joyce, many employers don't yet know how to handle this illness.

Likewise, many depressed workers probably don't know when or what to tell employers when they may need some assistance, or at least understanding for missed workdays.

Joyce points to a 1999 survey of 406 HR professionals by the Society of Human Resource Management, in which eight out of 10 respondents acknowledged that depression had been a problem for at least one of their employees in the previous three years.

These employers reported noticing decreased productivity, irritability, poor concentration and lethargy among depressed employees.

The report also found that while many health-care plans cover expenses related to the treatment of depression and other mental illnesses, there are often limitations to the coverage. Two-thirds of respondents reported that their organizations' mental-health plans have limits on the number of days that may be used for both inpatient and outpatient treatment.

Joyce notes, however, that employee assistance programs have been the popular avenue in recent years for workers to get help. Sixty-eight percent of respondents' organizations had EAPs available. "But treatment can fall short," she observes. "What happens when prescribed treatment days are used up and someone needs more counseling? Both the employee and the employer suffer.

"The worker suffers for obvious reasons: He or she is not getting help and is suffering every day when faced with work. The employer suffers in several ways, but especially because depression costs money."


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