Health Matters – Mental Health and Work: A silent health issue

Striving for mental health is about establishing and maintaining a balance in the social, physical, spiritual, economic, and mental realms of our lives. Given the hectic pace of many peoples? lives today, this can be especially challenging.

In fact, It’s estimated that depression will rank second only to heart disease as the leading cause of disability worldwide by the year 2020.

Economic losses associated with worker depression include absence from work, short-term disability costs, workers? compensation claims, safety incidents, employee turnover, and on-the-job impairment.

Various researchers have attempted to estimate absence costs associated with depression, and some have found that persons with depression were absent more and experienced significant work cutback when compared to individuals with no psychiatric problems.

These findings also determined that workers with depression experienced between 1.5 and 2.3 more short-term disability days than workers without depression over a 30-day period.

Mental illness is widely acknowledged to be a leading cause of workplace absenteeism and a significant factor of general work-related illness. In 2000 alone, it is estimated that depressive disorders ranked second among the most common reasons for visiting a physician in Canada, after high blood pressure.

Studies that have measured improvements in psychosocial constraints at the workplace have noted steep declines of between 9 per cent and 55 per cent in symptoms related to mental health and illness absences.

Several factors have been identified as barriers to return-to-work after a mental illness, including individual and organizational barriers to care.

At the individual level, stigma, lack of motivation to seek care, ignorance about treatment, lack of confidence with their physicians, deficiencies in primary care physicians training, and health care system shortcomings have been identified as barriers.

In terms of physician training, some general practitioners may lack the necessary interviewing skills to diagnose and treat depression, while many others may lack the time to fully evaluate and respond to depression with injured workers. Some physicians may not feel comfortable dealing with mental health issues and are more comfortable treating the medical aspects of the individual’s complaints. Moreover, their focus for treatment may be directed at physical conditions.

Maintaining productivity at work and home is the main difficulty that a depressed person faces, and the challenges facing health care professionals are to sort through the many factors underlying a person’s illness, identify the patient’s needs, and develop a treatment and return to work (RTW) plan accordingly.

For more information on mental health and work, visit Mental Health Works or the Canadian Mental Health Association website.

%d bloggers like this: