Pictured are Kim Hauge, Kent State’s manager for University Wellness and Healthy Campus Promotions (second from right) with co-presenters Gregory Mattingly, M.D., and Alice Medalia, Ph.D., and Mary R. Grealy, president, Healthcare Leadership Council.

Kent State Wellness Goes to Capitol Hill

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Federal legislators in the nation’s capital recently got schooled on how Kent State University has made a positive impact in reducing stigma and encouraging self-help behaviors to combat depression, and more specifically, depression in the workplace. 

Hosted by the Healthcare Leadership Council and titled “Feeling and Thinking Better: Uncovering the Hidden Cost of Depression and Shifting the Treatment Paradigm,” the mental health and cognition forum brought together experts in the field to discuss the prevalence of depression, what it looks like in the workplace and effective strategies for addressing major depressive disorder. Kim Hauge, Kent State’s manager for University Wellness and Healthy Campus Promotions, shared Kent State’s insight into major depressive disorder in the workplace.

Additional presenters included Alice Medalia, Ph.D., of Columbia University Medical Center and Gregory Mattingly, M.D., of Washington University School of Medicine. Medalia and Mattingly shared with attendees their research on the cognitive impact of those suffering from major depressive disorder. This is a very important message for patients as well as employers as research states that of the 14 million adults suffering from depression, nine out of 10 suffer from cognitive impairments, too, such as trouble concentrating, and these problems are often overlooked.

Recognizing that depression is on the rise globally and is one of the chronic conditions affecting the university’s workforce, Kent State’s Benefits and Wellness department developed a plan to educate the university community on the prevalence of major depressive disorder, and its signs and symptoms. The awareness and education campaign at Kent State integrated its employee assistance team from Impact Solutions, along with “Right Direction,” a free, turnkey depression awareness campaign that gives employers the necessary tools to address and manage the effects of depression among employees. 

“Important objectives for this campaign included recognizing symptoms, such as withdrawal from the work team, indifference, putting things off, missed deadlines, low motivation and lack of concentration as some of the symptoms of major depressive disorder,” Hauge says. “This campaign was held over a four-month period, visiting each campus location. The other purpose of this campaign was to provide employees with a greater awareness of the resources available for help and support. This is where the robust services of our Employee Assistance Program proved so pivotal.” 

“What we saw post-campaign was an immediate increase in traffic to the Employee Assistance Program website, including a 10-percent increase in web hits and almost a 2-percent increase in the first six months for mental health services usage rates,” Hauge says. “That trend has continued to climb in the months and subsequent two years as we keep this messaging part of our overall wellness strategy. This type of positive self-advocacy is exactly what we would hope with our messaging.

“Our desire was to reduce stigma around mental health, create awareness and empower employees to self-advocate,” Hauge adds. “As we know, early intervention is the best medicine for recovery from depression and avoidance of further disability and costly levels of care. Based on our data, we are achieving what we set out to do.”     

Additional components of Hauge’s presentation to the Healthcare Leadership Council included the importance of messaging, discussion about resources that are available to employers to help with messaging, cost avoidance through intervention and consistency with the campaign. 

“It cannot be a ‘one and done’ to be effective,” she says. “At any time in life’s journey, anyone can experience a battle with depression. Whether it’s triggered by a catastrophic loss or other factors, employers can support and retain employees by providing advocacy and resources to combat the adverse effects of depression.”

The council expressed that the sharing of such compelling data will be extremely helpful as stakeholders in attendance work on policies that promote a better understanding of major depressive disorder and the best ways to treat it.

For additional information on Kent State’s confidential Employee Assistance Program through Impact Solutions, visit www.kent.edu/hr/benefits/employee-assistance-program-impact-solutions.

For more information about the Healthcare Leadership Council, visit www.hlc.org