Did you know that May is celebrated as Mental Health Month?

Often we talk about resiliency, stress management, and relaxation strategies during this month, but often we miss the opportunity to talk about conditions like Depression.

Depression Often Goes Unrecognized

According to the CMHA, 1 in 10 Canadians will experience Depression at some point in their lifetime. Many may deal with it in silence and feel that there is nowhere to turn. The guilt and the shame of not being able to effectively cope with day-to-day stressors leave many feeling isolated, helpless and hopeless.

There are many reasons as to why an employee wouldn’t reach out for medical advice or help. Shame and guilt are a part of the reason, but also not knowing how to navigate the mental health system is another. Others are also just not sure that what they are experiencing is even an illness.

We know that for heart disease or diabetes, health screenings provide a quick and easy way to spot the first signs of serious illness and can reach employees who might not otherwise seek professional medical advice. With two out of every three people who are experiencing Depression not seeking help, why isn’t Depression screening seen as just as important in our workplaces? (source CMHA)

Why Screen For Depression in the Workplace?

- Employee Well-being: Screening for Depression can help identify employees who may be struggling with mental health issues and provide them with necessary support and resources to improve their well-being.

- Productivity: Depression can significantly impact an individual's ability to perform effectively at work. By identifying and addressing Depression early, employers can help maintain productivity levels within the team.

- Reduced Absenteeism: Employees experiencing Depression may be more likely to take frequent or extended absences from work. Screening can help identify these issues early and provide interventions to reduce absenteeism.

- Improved Morale: Creating a supportive environment where mental health concerns are addressed can improve overall employee morale and satisfaction with the workplace.

- Cost Savings: Untreated Depression can lead to increased healthcare costs, decreased productivity, and higher rates of disability claims. Screening and early intervention can help mitigate these costs in the long term.

- Risk Management: Depression can increase the risk of workplace accidents and errors. Identifying and supporting employees with Depression can help mitigate these risks and create a safer work environment.

- Legal Compliance: Many jurisdictions have laws and regulations that require employers to provide a safe and healthy work environment, which includes addressing mental health concerns such as Depression.

- Stigma Reduction: Conducting Depression screenings in the workplace can help reduce the stigma associated with mental health issues by normalizing discussions about mental well-being and seeking help.

- Enhanced Employee Engagement: Employees are more likely to feel engaged and committed to their work when they feel supported by their employer, including in matters related to mental health.

- Social Responsibility: Employers have a social responsibility to promote the well-being of their employees, and screening for Depression is one way to fulfill this obligation and contribute to a healthier society overall.

Who Should Get Screened For Depression?

If in doubt, check it out.

If you suspect that an employee is experiencing any of the symptoms listed below, encourage them to take the opportunity to get screened and talk to their doctor.

Employees Experiencing Depression Often Report These Key Symptoms:

- Persistent sadness or “empty” mood
- Sleeping interruptions, or sleeping too much
- Reduced appetite and weight loss, or increased appetite and weight gain
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
- Restlessness or decreased activity
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Thoughts of death or suicide

We all have experienced some of these symptoms at one point or another, but these may be considered associated with the illness of Depression when the symptoms last for more than a couple of weeks, and they start to interfere with your home or work life.

Screenings are not a definitive diagnosis of Depression, but they can point out the presence of symptoms often associated with Depression.

Depression Screening : What Is It?

Depression screening evaluates these symptoms and how much these symptoms may be interfering with daily living. Careful inquiry into SIGECAPS — Sleep, Interest, Guilt, Energy, Concentration, Appetite, Psychomotor function, and Suicide — are of critical importance in diagnosing depression.

Complaints in 4 or more of these categories (feeling guilty, sleeping poorly, having low energy, etc.) point to a major depressive episode. Two or 3 complaints may suggest “minor depression,” though this category should not be dismissed lightly. Left untreated, some patients with less severe Depression may worsen.

There are several anonymous online screening tools for Depression. If you think that an employee or colleague may be experiencing Depression, encourage them to check out one of these screening tools. Depression screening tools are not about diagnosing Depression yourself, but about learning the signs and symptoms of Depression and giving you some information that you can discuss with a mental health professional.

If it turns out that your employee or colleague is experiencing Depression, let them know that help is available and it may come in many forms. Counselling, psychotherapy, medication and stress management techniques have all been found to be effective in managing the symptoms of Depression.

General Tips For Depression Screening:

Like screenings for other illnesses, Depression screenings should be a routine part of healthcare.

Work at addressing fear, shame and guilt around mental illness so that it doesn’t prevent your employees from getting the help that they deserve.

Encourage your employees or colleagues to talk to their doctor if they are concerned and use the online screening tools to help them explain how and what they are experiencing.

Keep an open mind. Treatment for Depression may take a long time and the best treatment option may take a while to reach full impact. Note: that just because the treatment doesn’t work right away, doesn’t mean that it won’t work at all. Help your employee to persist in exploring treatment options.

Depression Screening And Tips For Human Capital Management Specialists:

Help break down the stigma often associated with a mental health condition, especially Depression. Provide opportunities to educate and discuss the issues surrounding mental illness.

Know how to hold a supportive mental health conversation and train your leaders on how to approach a conversation in a confident and caring manner.

Know what resources are available should someone need a referral to mental health support.

Recognize the need for flexible work schedules while the employee is getting help. Look for ways to increase support and decrease stress.

Remember that severe Depression may be life-threatening to the employee, but rarely to others. If an employee makes comments like “life is not worth living” or “people would be better off without me,” take the statements seriously. Immediately call your EAP, community mental health specialist or 9-8-8: Suicide Crisis Helpline and seek advice on how to handle the situation.

Human capital management specialists play a critical role in fostering a mentally healthy workplace and creating a culture that prioritizes mental health. By breaking down stigma, facilitating flexible work arrangements, recognizing the gravity of severe Depression, and promoting Depression screening, human capital management specialists can empower their employees to thrive both personally and professionally. As champions of employee well-being, it's imperative for human capital management specialists to continually educate themselves and their teams, equipping them with the tools and knowledge to navigate mental health challenges effectively. Through these concerted efforts, human capital management specialists can foster a culture of compassion, resilience, and inclusivity, where individuals don’t feel disengaged, isolated, and helpless.

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