Recent research has revealed for the first time that evidence-based workplace depression prevention programs can significantly reduce depression symptoms among employees.

According to Dr Sam Harvey, Consultant Psychiatrist and Head of the Workplace Mental Health Research Program at UNSW and the Black Dog Institute, with 60 per cent of the population employed, and 60 per cent of our waking hours spent working, workplaces are a prime location to base mental health education and prevention programs.

“We did a systematic search across the world to identify good quality research publications that tested the impact of depression prevention programs in different workforces,” Dr Harvey, who is also part of the School of Psychiatry, said.

The results of the meta-analysis, published in BMC Medicine, showed for the first time that evidence-based workplace depression prevention programs significantly reduced depression symptoms amongst employees.

“This tells us two things. Firstly, that the workplace is a viable location for providing universal mental health prevention programs, and secondly, it demonstrates the potential power of the workplace for spreading important public health messages and shows that we can become too focused on the bigstock_Resignation_527483potential negative aspects of work and work stress on mental health,” he said. “Due to the nature of the analysis, we weren’t able to determine which interventions were most effective, although at present cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)-based interventions have the most evidence.

CBT-based interventions teach workers, either in groups or individually, to better understand their emotions, thoughts and behaviours in a range of potentially stressful situations and a variety of techniques to help them cope or adapt better.

“Overall these results provide strong evidence to support the incorporation of mental health prevention strategies in workplaces as part of ongoing efforts to reduce the unacceptably high rates of mental ill health amongst working Australians.”

The research comes as depression Not for Profit beyondblue launches its national campaign in conjunction with the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance to encourage Australia’s business leaders to take action on mental health, based on a report by PwC reveals that Australian businesses will receive an average return of $2.30 for every dollar they invest in effective workplace mental health strategies.

This article first appeared on ‘Pro Bono News’ on 26 May 2014.

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