Emory University and Truven Health Analytics recently did a study in which they found that workers with depression “who make up about 11% of the total workforce in the seven companies (studied)spent an average of $2,184 on health care, which is about 48% more than other workers who did not have the condition.” Further, at the end of the study, it was recommended that the overall results could indicate opportunities for employers to do more to screen workers for high-risk behaviors (Kaiser Health News/NPR, 11/6) and added that “employers who adopt risk-reduction programs might save on their health care expenditures in the future.”
How do you think employers will respond? They can see this as a recommendation to screen employees before hiring so that the best medical care that will take the individual to good health will take place once they are employed. Or can employers use this as an opportunity to screen out individuals who might cost them too much? Will it be a time of war on depression and mental illness and a move toward replacing the stigma we fought so hard to remove?
We have to be careful not to look only for healthy bodies. Healthy minds are important also. When we fail to see that or consider mental illness as a character flaw, we create a class society in health care. Often, there is little concern with the long term cost of untreated depression or other mental illness. . .  Perhaps if the focus were on learning more about illnesses of the brain rather than on marginalizing those with mental illness, we could finally improve the prognosis for depressed persons. Such an outcome would not only save these corporations dollars, but would improve the lives of depressed people and those who care for them. How many shootings carried out by people struggling with depression, how many suicides or “traffic accidents” will it take to have people wake up to the fact that treating mental illness, even if it costs an average of “48% more” is more than well worth it?
We know so much about the human body. We can replace hips or knees or even hearts and lungs. We can treat illnesses with antibiotics and procedures. But we know so little about the brain and its illnesses. We don’t even have a definitive way to diagnose depression. The medication for the disease is often a crapshoot and even when it finally works, it might stop doing its job at any time because the brain changes and we don’t know why.
The brain gives us our finest scientists, our best surgeons, our most creative individuals. We boast of the great minds of our nation who are healthy and whole enough to bring us recognition and advances. But let the brain go awry and we run. We say it costs too much to fix. We would rather it implode than help it get better.
No matter how much it costs we need to be ready to help people be the best they can be both in body and mind. People with depression are among our most creative individuals. If we lose them in the workforce, we might as well pack it in because depression is just around the corner for all of us with such a loss of creativity and personhood. Let’s hope that employees opt to take on those who cost “48% more” because together health can come to the individual, the company, and the nation.
Read more: http://www.californiahealthline.org/articles/2012/11/7/study-depression-most-costly-modifiable-risk-factor-for-employers.aspx#ixzz2C80LghfQ

Buy the Book! - Dancing in the Dark - How to Take Care of Yourself When Someone You Love is Depressed

This blog post was written by Bernadette Stankard, co-author of the book, Dancing in the Dark – How to Take Care of Yourself When Someone You Love is Depressed.

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