More than critical incidents cause stress… Is your workplace enlightened?
You may recall a this tragedy that occurred a few years ago. A horn blares an almost deafening sound from a huge ferry boat as it proceeds forward. Suddenly, a small craft cuts in front and is sucked under the bow. The crew who witnessed this tragedy un-fold before their eyes are received a mental health response from a company’s critical incident team in order to assist them in processing this event. This is a common response from most companies. Are we then to assume that mental health issues in the workplace have a high priority?
Companies appear to respond with expertise and compassion at times of disaster. However, our work environments also need to similarly address the most common mental disorder, which is depression. Michael Wilson, a former federal finance minister and chair of The Business and Economic Round Table on Mental Health supports this statement. The report goes on to state that of the 3 million Canadians who suffer from depression, only 6 percent are properly diagnosed and treated. The consequence to not respond to depression includes alcoholism, absenteeism, injury, and even physical illness. This is the human cost to our lack of response. The annual financial cost is 60 billion dollars in both U.S. and Canada in terms of lost productivity.
In the workplace, the response to depression should parallel the compassionate and enlightened response given to a critical incident. Such a response would include identifying areas of work stress utilizing the expertise of all levels of management and through surveying employees as to their perception of areas of stress; creating a work environment in which employees can be open about mental health issues.; educate the staff supervisors so that they feel comfortable speaking to employees who demonstrate changes in behaviour that might be associated with depression; providing an employee assistance program or extended health coverage that is easy to access; providing sufficient counseling support in order to address issues of more than just stress; and being hyper-vigilant about confidentiality – apparently only 7 percent of employees use employee assistance programs because of worries about confidentiality.
On behalf of all employees who, in battling an invisible enemy like depression, have had the appropriate response from their companies, the following testimonial is possible: She was employed for eight years and had received several positive evaluations and two promotions. She, however, was off work for a short period of time because she was unable to function with a diagnosis of depression. At the heart of the response to her ‘critical incident’ was the recognition through attitude and action that depression is not a sign of weakness; it has biological and psychological components that responds to effective treatment.
Originally published in the ‘Tri-Cities News’ as a voluntary contribution to the community from Arthur Rathgeber.
The contents of this article are the property of Willow Grove Counselling, Inc. and further reproduction is given through written permission only. Copyright © 2012