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Depression-related EAP calls jump by 40%

There has been a sharp increase in the number of employees phoning an employee assistance programme (EAP) helpline for advice about depression, according to data released by Canada Life Group.

The phone line provided by Canada Life as part of its group income protection package received 40% more calls about depression in 2015’s first quarter than the same period last year.

Depression now accounts for a third (31%) of all calls regarding mental health, and has become the fastest growing concern recorded by the business.

Canada Life Group Insurance marketing director Paul Avis said it is vital that employers provide appropriate support should an employee need it.

“The negative impact of stress on staff has been well documented, but analysis of calls to our employee assistance programme suggests that depression is nearly as prevalent among UK employees,” he said.

“More importantly, the number of calls made about depression has shot up by 40% in the last year alone. It is clear that employers need to turn their attention to wider mental health issues, focusing not only on stress but also the effects of depression and anxiety."

More than half (57%) of calls regarding mental health issues were work-related, and the phone line counselling team suggested an increased fear of redundancy caused greater depression and anxiety among employees.

Chris O’Sullivan, policy and development manager at the Mental Health Foundation, said that it was encouraging that workers felt able to seek advice on mental health concerns. “In some workplaces this is becoming slightly more acceptable to discuss,” he explained. “It’s good that employees can disclose and explore their feelings of depression."

He added: “People face challenges in their working life and outside of work. Employers need to consider the mental health risks of the actions they take, and manage them appropriately.”

Anxiety was the only mental health issue to see a fall in calls, with the number of concerned callers down by 11% since last year.

Avis added that employers have a duty of care to their staff to do as much as possible to prevent work-related mental health issues from developing. “With the possibility of as many as one in six people experiencing a mental health problem in the course of a year, I think that it is vital for employers to treat employee assistance programmes as a must-have rather than a fringe benefit,” he said.