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A Message From McLean Hospital

Helping Attorneys Manage Stress, Depression, and Addiction

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Depression and anxiety are among the most common psychiatric disorders worldwide, and can often be accompanied by an addiction to alcohol or other substances. Psychiatric illness and addiction can affect anyone and has an impact on everyone—even attorneys.

According to a recent study, between 21 and 36% of licensed, employed attorneys qualify as problem drinkers, about 28% struggle with some level of depression, 19% demonstrate symptoms of anxiety, and 23% have difficulties with stress. Unfortunately, these numbers are likely low estimates because stigma, shame, and fear too often prevent people from seeking care, even though they would benefit from it.

Depression and anxiety may not seem like things that you, as an employer, should concern yourself with, but the reality is that mental health can have a critical impact on productivity and workplace environment.

Think about your workforce. Do you have:

• Employees who frequently call out sick?

• Managers who consistently struggle to meet their productivity targets?

• A high turnover rate?

• Concerns about stress among your employees?

While none of these symptoms are cause to panic, they are red flags that could be indicators that members of your workforce are experiencing mental health conditions that are going untreated.

According to data supplied by the American Psychiatric Association, employees with unresolved depression experience a 35% reduction in productivity, contributing to a loss to the US economy of $210.5 billion a year in absenteeism, reduced productivity, and medical costs.

One of the greatest barriers we as a society face is that shame and stigma continue to be persistent when it comes to mental health, leading to a reluctance to talk about and, in some cases, fear of getting treatment for mental health issues. It is important to understand that mental illness does not discriminate and affects individuals of every gender, culture, race, religion, and socioeconomic background. In fact, worldwide, depression is the leading cause of disability, with the World Health Organization estimating that 300 million people globally live with depression, with many also exhibiting symptoms of anxiety.

Depression can manifest in many ways, including:

• Losing interest in all or most activities

• Reduction or increase in appetite or sleep

• Having difficulty concentrating

• Feelings of worthlessness

• Thoughts of suicide

Given the symptoms of depression, it makes sense that when employees are depressed, they miss an average of 31.4 days per year and lose another 27.9 to unproductivity. With the high prevalence of depression globally, your company undoubtedly employs individuals who live with depression and could benefit from your support.

A Mentally Healthy Workforce Is Good for Business

While the data about depression and productivity loss is dramatic, the good news is that mental illness—depression in particular—is treatable. With proper care, including therapy, skill building, and medication, 80% of employees treated for mental illness report improved levels of work effectiveness and satisfaction.

“Addressing employee mental health is cost-effective for the employer and beneficial for the employee,” said Philip G. Levendusky, PhD, ABPP, director of the Psychology Department at McLean Hospital and a member of the faculty at Harvard Medical School. “When employees receive effective treatment for mental illness, the result is lower total medical costs, increased productivity, lower absenteeism, and decreased disability costs.”

According to Levendusky, education and transparency are critical to helping employees understand mental illness and feel comfortable addressing issues as they arise.

Stress, like mental illness, is common in the workplace. Although stress is not a medical condition, without relief, it can contribute to the development of physical conditions and mental health concerns, including depression and anxiety.

Some stress is healthy, but too much can be debilitating, according to Levendusky. “Irritability, insomnia, depressed mood, are all common symptoms of excessive stress and should not be ignored.”

While business owners cannot prevent issues around mental health and stress in the workplace, by providing education and increasing awareness, they can build an accepting environment that supports and encourages mental and physical well-being.

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