Public health workers, including nurses, police, teachers, military, and bureaucrats at all levels of government, are suffering from depression at unprecedented rates. So much so, that mental health expert, Bill Wilkerson of Global Business and Economic Roundtable on Mental Health, says that depression has become the country’s biggest “public health crisis.”
Fatigue, stress and burnout are evident in all workplaces. Depression is becoming more obvious, especially in these difficult economic times. But nowhere is the problem greater than in the public service where the impact of mental distress has been called an epidemic.
Mental illness will strike one in every five Canadians at some point in their lives. Depression and anxiety represent up to 90 per cent of such illnesses and cause up to 35 million lost workdays a year in Canada. Experts claim that mental illness costs Canadian employers $51-billion a year (chiefly in lost productivity). It is the leading disability claim for insurers.
In Canada, between 30 to 40% of disability claims are for depression. Among public servants, mental health claims have doubled between 1991 and 2007 and now account for 45% of all disability claims. Given the impact of the recession, I cannot imagine what the numbers would be today.
Leaders such as Michael Kirby, first chair of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, predict that work overload, job insecurity and financial fears will spark a fresh wave of depression and other disorders. Psychiatrists across Canada are already reporting heavier caseloads. Studies show that about 75 per cent of federal executives feel they are on the verge of burnout or extreme fatigue.
In my own work, I have found a relationship between depression and spirit at work. As spirit at work (that sense that our work is meaningful, we are able to make a contribution and we feel good about what we are doing) goes up, depression goes down. Emotional exhaustion also decreases.
The good news is that we can increase spirit at work! Simply by rethinking your work.
Read an earlier blog about how to increase spirit at work: Happy at Home, Happy at Work.
Val Kinjerski, PhD, is a leading authority in the field of employee engagement and on the topic of “spirit at work.” A consultant, agent of change and professional speaker, she helps companies and organizations increase employee retention and boost productivity by reigniting employees’ love for their work. Check out her Spirit at Work Program and Inspired Leadership training at www.kaizensolutions.org. Val is the author of Rethinking Your Work and Rethinking Your Work Guidebook. Available now at www.rethinkingyourwork.com.