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Crucial Conversations About Mental Health

Most likely, you are aware that there are employees in your organization struggling with depression. Most businesses don’t talk about it openly even though depression is a common illness experienced by nearly one in ten Americans each year. The Partnership for Workplace Mental Health indicates that about 50% of employees affected by major depression are undiagnosed, and usually go untreated. That is a startling statistic. Depression that goes undiagnosed, untreated and/or mis-treated has a huge financial impact on business. In order for depression to be treated quickly and effectively, someone needs to speak up! The person who experiences depression may not understand that they have a common illness. They may be afraid or feel ashamed.

Your employee’s mental and physical health is important to you because it directly affects the success of your business.

These are possible signs of depression in the workplace:
• Decreased productivity
• Morale problems
• Lack of cooperation
• Safety risks, accidents
• Absenteeism
• Frequent statements about being tired all the time
• Alcohol and/or drug abuse
• Difficulty getting along with co workers
• Presenteeism (defined as the measure of lost productivity cost due to employees actually showing up for work, but not being fully engaged and productive.)

Sometimes it takes a crucial conversation with an employee to prompt them to get the help they need. That conversation would include facts about changes in behavior and performance in the workplace and may sound something like “I’m concerned that you’ve been late to work recently and aren’t meeting your performance objectives. I’d like to see you get back on track. You are a valuable employee. I don’t know whether this is the case for you, but if you have a personal problem you can speak confidentially to one of our employee assistance counselors or your doctor. Our conversation today and your appointment with any healthcare provider are confidential. Whether or not you seek help, you still will be expected to meet your performance goals.”

Your employees are your best asset. It is good business to encourage your employees to use the resources that are available to them through the workplace and in the community to increase their health. Remember, depression is a common medical illness. It’s okay to talk about it.

October 10 is National Depression Screening Day. Below are suggestions to help open a dialogue about mental health with your employees and make sure your business stays on track:
1. Learn more about the Methodist EAP Affinity Program which offers discounted rates to Chamber member businesses on emotional wellness needs for their employees. To learn more visit  http://www.memphischamber.com/Members/Member-Services-Resources/Affinity-Program/Methodist-Healthcare.aspx
2. Include a list of common warning signs of depression in your company newsletter or a staff-wide email; these can be found at www.livingwellfrontporch.org.
3. Encourage employees to speak with their family doctor or a mental health professional about getting screened for possible mental health issues. Let them know that screening for depression, anxiety and risky drinking is available on line at www.livingwellfrontporch.org.

Be treated well,
Donna Tosches


Donna Tosches, LCSW, CEAPDonna Tosches, LCSW, CEAP, is the Director of the Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and Dennis H. Jones Living Well Network. Chamber members are eligible to a discounted rate for the full EAP service through the Chamber’s Affinity Program. Donna writes for several industry publications, her most recent article “Recognizing Depression In The Workplace” having been published in the September 2013 issue of HR Professionals Magazine.




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