Can Employers Do More To Help Curb Depression?

Don’t give up on me when I isolate myself – Jen Jolly


It was recently reported that a World Health Organisation report found that depression is now the leading cause of disability worldwide, with 322 million people suffering from the sometimes debilitating mental illness right now, up by 18% since 2005.

It’s clear that instances of depression in individuals is on the up, but what can be done to curb this rising statistic?

Employers currently owe a duty of care towards their employees in terms of physical health. Employers have to ensure that employees are safe at all times. But perhaps it’s time to have a rethink and extend this duty of care to mental health too.

Mental illness is costly on the world economy, with depression and anxiety costing the global economy an estimated $1trn each year – with a lot of this cost being attributed to the decreased labour participation due to illness. Mental illness reduces the ability of individuals to work reliably and efficiently, and this is a huge incentive for employers to start stepping up to the plate.

It’s clear that the Government and NHS are struggling to cope with the rise in referrals to mental health teams, and many people are left to go it alone or are forced to go unmedicated due to a lack of the means to pay for the medication.

Our NHS is underfunded and is going into crisis, but perhaps it’s time that employers pick up some of the burden too like they sometimes do in America by providing their employees with health insurance plans? Perhaps British employers could sign up to a deal to cover the cost of mental health medication for their employees? This would aid employees in their recovery and allow their conditions to be treated, whilst also allowing employees to be more reliable and productive due to the positive impact that medication is proven to have on individuals.

Employers can help in other ways too. For instance, mental health problems can often be triggered by high stress environments. Employers should take it upon themselves to create workspaces that are conducive to positive mental health, and if they won’t then perhaps it’s time to include that within existing health and safety legislations?

Furthermore, the stigma surrounding mental health needs to be eliminated from workplaces. Employees already feel daunted by the prospect of informing their employer of mental health issues they may have, so perhaps employers could make this an easier conversation for employees by addressing the issue in meetings and helping to end the stigma through open dialogue. If an employee is struggling, it’s important for the employer to be aware and supportive so that they can provide any assistance needed.

An additional factor that can impact on someone with mental health issues is the fear of being reprimanded for perhaps not doing things as they should be. Perhaps they’re becoming upset easily or getting distracted. It’s important for managers to check in on their staff with understanding before automatically issuing disciplinaries, and it would be a good idea to train managers in mental health issues so they are more aware of the signs that employees may present when having a problem.

Overall, mental health issues should be dealt with more in the workplace if we’re to stem this rising tide of depression in our population. People shouldn’t be afraid to work because of their mental health issues, and employers shouldn’t be afraid to start providing support to their employees to help them be more productive for the company. Addressing this situation would be a win for both sides so to speak.

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