Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Depression and Black Women....
Nothing funny this time. I just read the piece below by Tamara E. Holmes at the Black Enterprise web site and thought it was worth sharing here:
Mental health advocates are calling on the business community to confront depression among employees; not just in a bid to improve employees' lives but as a way to improve the business' bottom line. Unfortunately, depression disproportionately affects black women.
According to DepressionIsReal.org, depression among black women is almost 50% higher than it is among white women. And of black women suffering from depression, only 7% receive treatment. This is compared to 20% of white women.
These statistics have community leaders urging African Americans who think they are depressed to seek help by contacting a mental health professional. Last month, a panel discussion sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus and the Depression is Real Coalition, an alliance of mental health advocates, highlighted the impact of depression on African American women.
Signs of depression include a significant change in one's mood over an extended period of time, typically for more than two weeks, says Altha J. Stewart, M.D., president of the American Psychiatric Foundation.
Other signs are lack of energy, changes in appetite, withdrawal from social events, and changes in sleeping patterns.
Depression is a business problem because "employees that are depressed have a higher rate of absenteeism, and they have low productivity, so it indirectly costs corporations," says Angie Burks, a lecturer with Indiana University-Bloomington's Kelley School of Business who has done extensive research on the topic.
Burks cites a 2006 study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry that found that a depressed worker costs employers $4,426 in indirect costs annually. "Companies encourage employees to get mammograms and get blood pressure tests but they don't encourage mental health screening," she says. "If they did it would save [businesses] a lot of money."
Another study, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, looked at the effect of depression treatment. After screening workers for depression, researchers found that those who received enhanced therapy and medication to treat the depression were more likely to still be employed after 12 months and worked on average two more hours a week than those who did not receive more pronounced care for depression.
"Depression is not just an emotional or personal health problem," says Philip Wang, M.D., one of the study researchers. "It also impacts people's productivity at work."
While there's no shortage of statistics on depression's impact, many people don't seek treatment because of the stigma associated with it, says Stewart. Though depression is a medical problem, it "is commonly seen as a weakness or character flaw and for some people for whom religion plays a major part in their lives, it's even attributed to a lack of faith or a lack of enough faith," says Stewart.
Employers are also recognizing depression's costs. According to a survey conducted by the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health and the human resources professional trade publication Employee Benefit News, employers rated mental illness as the health issue with the biggest effect on indirect company costs.
The American Psychiatric Foundation regularly points out examples of companies that are proactive in helping employees deal with mental health issues in its newsletter Mental HealthWorks, co-published with the American Psychiatric Association. One such company, San Ramon, California-based Chevron Corp., includes in its benefits package a mental health/substance abuse plan that covers 90% of outpatient costs and offers access to therapists for such personal needs as relationship counseling.
Business leaders can play a major role in removing the stigma attached to depression and motivating depressed employees to seek help, Stewart says. "Given that most change of significance starts at the top, management has to be very clear with human resources and with supervisors that we must be proactive in both recognizing the signs of depression and ensuring that those who are suffering with depression have access to appropriate treatment."
Partnership for Workplace Mental Health
American Psychiatric Foundation
Depression is Real Coalition
National Institute of Mental Health