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Depressed Employees Lose Production, Workdays and Jobs, but Few Seek Help

HR executives are acutely aware that employees with depression are much less productive than their nondepressed co-workers, with some losing as many as 18 working days in the office annually.

Left untreated, these employees suffering from depression are more likely to switch or lose their jobs, costing themselves, and their companies, money.
Andrea Piatt, a Boston clinical psychologist and chief executive officer of Commonwealth Psychology Associates, says that 20 million Americans suffer from depression symptoms and that 6% of employees experience problems with depression in a given year.
What’s disconcerting, Piatt says, is that so few people seek help.
“One reason is that many people don’t realize that they are experiencing symptoms of depression and therefore don’t pursue depression treatment,” she says.
Other ailments, such as sleep problems, fatigue, and changes in appetite or weight, all key symptoms of depression, are often associated with other conditions, which makes diagnosing the condition more difficult.

“Although the stigma surrounding emotional or psychological problems has diminished in the last decade,” says the clinical psychologist, “many people still feel too embarrassed to admit that they need help or to request help.”

At Commonwealth Psychology Associates, a behavioral-health specialty center in Massachusetts, which recently opened its third location, psychologists often work with clients who were apprehensive of asking their employer for help or utilizing a company employee-assistance program (EAP) for fear that it will negatively affect their performance reviews or promotions.

However, not seeking help, Piatt says, is what can lead to problems. Employees who leave their depression untreated can experience lost productivity and diminished work performance.

“Many people with depression will have trouble mustering the energy to initiate projects and tasks, complete assignments or follow through with other responsibilities,” she explains. “They may appear as if they are disinterested or even irresponsible.”

Depressed people often lose interest in others and may even prefer to isolate, withdraw and disengage themselves from once-close relationships.

“An unfortunate consequence of depression can be that co-workers, managers and customers misinterpret symptoms of depression at work as reflecting a personality issue, an aloof nature,…any of which can have devastating consequences on one's career,” Piatt says.

The clinical psychologist reminds employees that there is no one way to treat depression.  Many treating psychologists combine psychotherapy or counseling services with medication.

“When attempting to identify treatment providers, it is important to find those who can approach treatment with an open mind about the best treatment route for you and who have sufficient resources available to them to offer integrated treatment, if needed,” she says.

Piatt warns employees seeking help to thoroughly research the psychologist they intend to work with, including seeking referrals from their company’s EAP or primary-care physician.

To learn more about Commonwealth Psychology Associates, visit


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