09:51am Saturday 06 June 2020

The high costs of depression

Could you be making your co-workers ill without even realizing it? Employee and employer attitudes towards depression have a major influence on the health of people who struggle with the disorder, and researchers at the University of Calgary are studying ways to improve these attitudes. 

In addition to its personal and social effects, depression costs Canadian employers billions of dollars each year in the form of missed work and healthcare costs. It is therefore important to develop methods for reducing the burden of depression on society and individuals—and improving the attitudes of employers and employees offers one possible strategy.

“When someone is struggling with depression, it severely impacts their interactions at work,” says Rachel Martin, a doctoral candidate in the Clinical Psychology Program. “And the mostly-negative attitudes that people have towards mental disorders like depression have a serious impact on their co-worker who is already suffering.”

“So not only is depression a very serious disorder that makes it hard for people to live their lives and hold down jobs, but the stigma attached makes it a whole lot worse and often prevents people from seeking the help and treatment that they need.”

Martin’s research focuses on the burden of depression and ways that the stigma around the disorder can be reduced in the workplace.

Strategies to decrease stigma include providing accurate information about depression—such as the fact that nearly one in four people will experience some form of depression in their lives. Personal contact is also encouraged so that people who aren’t affected by the disorder have contact with someone who does.

Martin’s research is also trying to change attitudes about depression another way—by getting people to think about the way they think. “By thinking about your thought processes and becoming aware of your automatic thoughts about depression, you might decide to change them and think about people differently.”

Keith Dobson, Head of the Psychology Department at the U of C and Martin’s faculty advisor, says the reduction of mental health stigma in the workplace is a timely and important issue for all Canadians. “The Mental Health Commission of Canada has identified stigma as one of the greatest challenges that face people with mental disorders.”

The U of C researchers have been working with several large employers in Calgary but are also looking for other individuals to participate in the study. While personal or close experience with depression is not necessary, participants do need to be currently employed, be over 18 years of age, and speak English as a first language. Participants can enter into a random draw to win an 8G iPod Touch. Those interested in participating in the study should call: 403.220.4971 or email: [email protected]  

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