NIMH Study Recommends Employers Provide Depression Treatment Services
> 9/26/2007 9:42:50 AM

A team of researchers from the National Institute of Mental Illness performed a comprehensive experiment and has concluded that companies would do well to invest in mental health services for employees. The team, led by Dr. Philip Wang, came to their conclusion after studying the results of a randomized and controlled study that investigated the viability and efficacy of depression treatment for employees of several large companies. 604 employees found to have clinically significant depression were placed into two groups, one that received a choice of three treatments, and one that was informed about their screening results and given advice to seek care.

The team's results appear in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association, and speak to the strength of providing depression treatment within the context of the employee-employer relationship. The depressed workers who were in the group that received depression intervention were 40% more likely to have recovered from their depression, and were 70% more likely to have stayed employed during their treatment. The intervention group also worked an average of two more hours a week more than those that received what the researchers called "the usual" care.

In an NIMH press release, Dr. Wang spoke about the implications of this new study:

“For many people, a large chunk of their lives is devoted to work. Depression affects not only a person’s health, but also his or her ability to work,” noted Dr. Wang. “Employers should consider a depression screening and intervention program as a healthy, win-win investment.”

On the issue of treating depression to improve company-wide productivity, the collected wisdom of research grows stronger everyday. Mental health concerns—from depression and bipolar disorder to alcoholism and drug abuse—face corporations of all shapes and sizes. Dr. Wang and his team from the NIMH have provided incredibly strong evidence for the cost-efficiency of addressing these issues. Now that we understand the importance of providing mental health services to employees, the question will be how do companies do this in a manner that is both appropriate for their needs and appropriate for the needs of their employees. While these two forces may continue to be at odds, Dr. Wang's experiment design offers one option. During the early part of the NIMH study, screenings were done via both the web and the phone, and then phone therapy was offered as an option for the treatment group. By leaning on newer communication options costs will stay low, and convenience to the employee will increase the use of services. In this way, both company and employee can benefit.

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