Many workers with depression do not recognize they need treatment

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Many workers with depression do not recognize they need treatment
Many workers with depression do not recognize they need treatment

More than half of workers with depression do not recognized that they need treatment, say researchers at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto, Canada. They say that the unrecognized need for care creates a barrier to treatment and can cause productivity loss in the workplace.

Up to 40 percent of the study participants surveyed experienced significant depressive symptoms, but 52.8 percent of that group did not recognize that they needed treatment for depression. Previous studies in the U.S. and Australia had similar findings.

The data was based on the responses of 2,219 Ontario adults to both telephone questionnaires and web-based surveys. Participants were between the ages of 18 to 54 years old and had been working during the preceding year.

“Our results suggest that a significant number of workers who are experiencing symptoms of depression do not recognize they could benefit from help, and so do not seek it,” says Dr. Carolyn Dewa, head of CAMH’s Centre for Research on Employment and Workplace Health and lead author of the study. “This barrier has a significant impact on health and work productivity, and is an area where employers can focus efforts to reduce work productivity loss.”

The researchers developed a model that helps employers identify the key barriers to seeking treatment for depression that employees face and determine how to increase the usage of mental health services by their workers. Dr. Dewa and her colleagues estimate that removing the barriers caused by the lack of recognition of the need for treatment could create a 33 percent decrease in work productivity loss.

“It’s important for employers to know where to start when it comes to tackling productivity loss related to untreated depression,” says Dr. Dewa. “Our study suggests that helping workers understand when they should be seeking help would significantly boost work productivity.”

The researchers assessed structural and attitudinal barriers to accessing services. Attitudinal barriers included a belief that treatment for depression is not effective and stigma. Structural barriers included difficulties in accessing appropriate mental health care and financial limitations. Researchers estimate that if barriers are removed, work productivity loss could be reduced by nearly 50 percent. “The most effective workplace mental health strategies will acknowledge the complexity of the problem and address all aspects in a comprehensive way,” said Dr. Dewa.

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