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An exploration of job accommodations for employees with depression Hanson, Douglas Brian

Abstract

Depression is an international problem for individuals, corporations and governments. It is estimated to affect 5 to 10% of the workforce at any one time (Olsheski, Rosenthal, & Hamilton, 2002). In the 2001 World Health Report released by the World Health Organization (WHO), mental disorders were projected to account, by 2020, for 15% of disability internationally and depression as the second highest burden of disease (Murray & Lopez, 1996; Simon, 2003). The costs to Canadian employers in lost productivity from presenteeism, absenteeism and mortality is in the billions of dollars per year (Stephens & Joubert, 2001). Depression is accompanied by discrimination and stigma resulting in employers being uncertain of how to accommodate their depressed employees in returning to work. Research on mental disability management, including return-to-work processes, to inform practice is inadequate (Goldner, Bilsker, Gilbert, Myette, Corbiere, & Dewa, 2004). This study used qualitative methods to understand how job accommodations for depression are actually practiced in the field. This is an important contribution because although accommodations are seen as one of the most important strategies for promoting employment of the disabled, there has been little direct work to study how accommodations are actually evolving in the field for individuals with depression. This study identified and critically reviewed job accommodation processes that support the inclusion and retention of persons with depression in the workforce. This involved the identification of employment-based barriers (i.e. attitudes, lack of knowledge, finances and system support), and approaches to job accommodation for workers with depression. Interviews were conducted with 21 participants (experts) who have recognized training and experience in the treatment, rehabilitation and job accommodation of workers with depression. This study offers recommendations for job accommodations that will assist employers and rehabilitation professionals in facilitating the employment of workers with depression. The long-term intention of this study is to enhance the treatment and vocational rehabilitation of employees with depression

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