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The issue is discussed in a series of new studies found in the April Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Authorities call for an integrated, evidence-based approach to manage this common, chronic, and often recurrent disorder.
The 15 papers in the issue, prepared by experts in their fields, are presented as part of the ACOEM Depression in the Workplace Project, a joint venture of the ACOEM Occupational Mental Health Committee and the ACOEM Health and Productivity Section.
Having defined the scope of the problem, the new papers discuss some promising approaches to improving the management of workplace depression. For example, programs to improve coping and stress management skills, identify employees at risk, and promote early treatment may help to prevent or lessen the severity of depression.
New approaches will be needed to manage persistent gaps in treatment for depression. Although antidepressant medications are effective, they do not eliminate symptoms in all patients. Specific types of psychotherapy have proven beneficial, but appear to be underused.
Newer "collaborative care" approaches show promise in improving the outcomes of depression treatment. Although initial costs are higher, these intensive approaches make good business sense — more effective treatment leads to better employee retention and increased hours worked.
For employers, for whom depression is linked to increased unemployment, increased absenteeism, and decreased productivity — not to mention disruptive effects on work organization and increased health care and disability costs — such enhanced depression care programs should be viewed not as an added cost, but as a "human capital investment opportunity."
The authors call on the occupational medicine community to play a leadership role in improving the management of workplace depression. Drs. Caruso and Myette advocate the development of integrated approaches incorporating the best of clinical, community, and workplace programs.
They conclude, "An expanded role for employers and occupational health professionals in the management of depression and other chronic diseases is seen as fundamental to maintaining a healthy and productive workforce."
Source: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins