As a society, we’ve made great strides in terms of employee assistance programs and mental health awareness – especially when it comes to depression. Depression is the world’s most common mental health issue, and affects 21 million adults (8.3%) in the United States alone. According to the World Health Organization, depression is one of the leading causes of disability.
We have become more aware of depression, but awareness is only the first step. It’s also critical that we’re regularly screening individuals for depression, just like we do for other health conditions like heart disease or high cholesterol. When we catch depression symptoms early on, we can help people realize there is a health problem and get the treatment they need – often through employee assistance programs.
National Depression Screening Day is celebrated each year in the first week of October. In today’s blog, we’ll help you prepare for this important day by giving you tips and resources on how to conduct depression screenings in your workplace.
Understanding what depression looks like
Most people have a general idea of what a “depressed person” looks like; perhaps you imagine someone who is often sad and cries frequently. But in reality, this is only one presentation of depression. There are many types of depressive disorders, and it’s important to understand how each of them can present.
Common symptoms of depression
Sad or low mood and frequent crying often do come along with depression. Some other common symptoms that you may notice include:
- No longer seem to enjoy things they used to enjoy
- Suddenly being apathetic or indifferent to work
- Appearing lethargic or extremely fatigued, which can even lead them to physically move slower than normal
- Decreased productivity at work
- Eating more or less than usual, which can lead to weight gain or loss
- Mood swings or being irritable; snapping at colleagues over small things
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions; seeming to have a hard time remembering things
- Withdrawing and isolating themselves from others, especially if you’ve known them to be social people
- Increased absenteeism and tardiness
- Frequently complaining of unexplained physical symptoms like headaches or stomachaches
- Being very self-critical or having low self-esteem
- Talking about death and suicide, even if it’s in a “joking” manner
Although not everyone who displays these signs is experiencing depression, it’s important to be aware of the signs so you know what to watch out for. If you notice these signs, consider employee assistance programs to help improve your mental health.
On top of that, there are several different depressive disorders.
Major depressive disorder
This is what we most often refer to when we talk about “clinical depression.” People with major depressive disorder show many of the above symptoms for a period of 2 weeks or more.
Persistent depressive disorder
Persistent depressive disorder is also called chronic depression, and is diagnosed when someone has symptoms of depression for 2 years or more. They may not seem as acutely depressed, but likely show at least some of the symptoms.
People with bipolar disorder swing between mania/hypomania (an intensely euphoric or “high” mood that can cause impulsive and dangerous behaviors) and depression. People with bipolar disorder may not be immediately identified as having depression because they could be in a manic episode the majority of the time. Other people with bipolar disorder are depressed most of the time and only experience one manic episode in their lives.
Colleagues who have recently given birth may show signs of postpartum depression, which is when someone experiences depression symptoms after childbirth. Research shows that people who adopt, as well as non-birthing partners, can also experience postpartum depression.
Because of these variations, depression can present itself in many different ways. Regular depression screening can make sure no one falls through the cracks.
Why is it important to screen for depression?
National Depression Screening Day can be an opportunity to remind employees to self-reflect and check themselves for symptoms of depression. Just like they go to their doctor every year for an annual physical exam, they can complete depression screening tools to ensure that their mood and mental health are sound.
Often when we’re experiencing depression, especially if we’ve experienced it for a long time, we don’t realize that we need help. We may assume that certain feelings or experiences are “just a part of life.” This can prevent us from getting support when we need it.
Here are some other reasons why it’s important to regularly screen for depression:
- Regular screening allows for the early identification of depression symptoms, which enables timely intervention and support (employee assistance programs) for employees who may be struggling.
- Employees benefit from increased awareness of their mental health through routine screenings. This knowledge can empower them to take proactive steps in managing their mental well-being and seeking support when it’s needed.
- Routine screening can minimize the personal and professional consequences of untreated depression, like workplace conflicts, strained relationships, financial stress, or compromised work-life balance.
- When people regularly screen themselves for depression, they’re connected to appropriate resources and assistance.
- Screening initiatives play a crucial role in tailoring and targeting mental health support through employee assistance programs in terms of organizational support.
- A workplace that prioritizes regular depression screening experiences improved employee engagement and retention because they’re creating environments that are characterized by care and support.
Screening tools for depression
Here is a helpful list of screening tools and resources that your employees can use to screen themselves for depression. Make sure that employees know that their results will be confidential. The idea is to help them get access to treatment when they otherwise wouldn’t have.
It’s also important to note that depression screening tests are not a replacement for a professional evaluation and diagnosis. No screening tool can diagnose you with depression, but they can give you a better idea of the signs of depression you or your employees might be experiencing and whether or not they could benefit from professional support.
- Beck Depression Inventory (BDI)
- Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CES-D)
- Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAM-D)
- Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology – Self-Report (QIDS-SR)
- Beck Hopelessness Scale
- Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9)
Your Employee Assistance Program may also be able to help. If you’re a MINES & Associates client, you and your family have access to free and confidential counseling services at any time, day or night. Our mental health therapists can help you figure out if you might be experiencing depression, and offer guidance and support.
Contact us today and let us know how we can support your organization.
To Your Wellbeing,
The MINES Team