Employees with depression who are receiving treatment while they’re still working are significantly more likely to be productive, according to a study by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). The study, which is published in The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, is the first of its kind to examine a possible correlation between treatment for depression and workplace productivity.

Mental illness costs the Canadian economy an estimated $51 billion annually, with a third of that attributed to productivity losses.

People who experience a depressive episode are significantly less likely to be highly productive, the study shows. This is not surprising, since depression has been shown to have adverse effects on comprehension, social participation and day-to-day-functioning, explained Dr. Carolyn Dewa, head of CAMH’s Centre for Research on Employment and Workplace Health. However, those “who had experienced a moderate depressive episode and received treatment were 2.5 times more likely to be highly productive compared with those who had no treatment,” she said. “Likewise, people who experienced severe depression were seven times more likely to be high-performing than those who had no treatment.”

Despite the positive results, the study also shows a troubling trend regarding employees’ willingness and/or ability to seek out help for mental illness. Among the study participants who had experienced a severe depressive episode, 57% did not receive treatment. Of those who had experienced a moderate depressive episode, 40% did not seek treatment.

“When we look at the success of workers in the sample who received treatment while still in the workplace, it really speaks to the importance of prevention and the need for employers to facilitate treatment and support,” said Dewa. “If people are able to receive treatment early, disability leave—which costs companies $18,000 per leave—may be avoided.”

People’s reluctance to seek help for mental illness may come down to stigma, discrimination and lack of support in the workplace, suggested Dewa. “It is crucial that employers offer mental health interventions to their employees and support them in engaging in treatment, as well as continuing to support them as they transition back into the workplace.”

Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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