Productivity And Mental Health Coverage

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Knoxville (WVLT) -- Depression affects about six percent of American workers and costs more than $30 billion every year in lost productivity.

We know treating depression makes good medical sense, but a new study suggests it also makes good business sense.

Approximately 15 million Americans suffer depression each year.

"I myself have suffered from depression and counseling helped me," said an anonymous worker.

While many employers still view mental health coverage as a waste of money, a new study just published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that shows spending money on depression is a smart business move.

Cariten Assist provides treatment to workers at more than 100 area companies, including inexpensive telephone counseling.

Which this study found improved a worker's symptoms and productivity.

"What it is is a short term counseling program for any employee of the company or their family members," said Dayle Hoffman with Cariten Behavioral Health Services. They can call us, it's free to the employee."

In the study, workers who received enhanced depression care, including telephone counseling, were 40 percent more likely to recover from depression and 70 percent more likely to still be working at the end of the year.

It also revealed that workers receiving enhanced care worked, on average, two hours more per week.

"It's huge, the amount of work that's missed by people who are depressed," Hoffman said. "It's a very common malady, maybe five percent of the workforce could be depressed at any given time."

The study suggests the savings from more hours worked averaged about 18-hundred dollars per employee, far exceeding the program's initial cost of $100 to $400 per worker.

"I think that the companies that have these programs, that offer programs, find it invaluable," Hoffman said.

Workers report telephone psychotherapy that they received during non-work hours was less stigmatizing and more convenient than office visits with a psychiatrist.

The JAMA study involved 604 white collar and blue collar workers at 16 large American companies.

The employees came from all professions including pilots, lawyers, bankers, truckers and janitors.

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