min read
August 9, 2023

The far-reaching impact of adolescent depression

Understanding what the rising rates of depression among youth mean for your organization — and actionable tasks HR and benefits leaders can take today.

Depression is a mental illness that negatively impacts how people think, feel, and act. It’s the most common mental health condition people face today, behind anxiety disorders. And in our youth population especially, we’re seeing alarming trends in the increasing prevalence and lack of support for the condition.

Millions of adolescents are struggling with depression in the US, fueling the fire of the rapidly worsening youth mental health crisis, which the pandemic has exacerbated. Since 2020, rates of depression and anxiety in adolescents have more than doubled. If these trends aren’t alarming enough, up to 80% of children, youth, and young adults do not receive adequate support for their mental health due to access challenges. Only 4% of clinical psychologists in the US specialize in adolescent mental health, and these overloaded providers are trying to juggle exhausting loads. Nearly 60% of psychologists reported having no openings — meaning most adolescents are seen by their general pediatricians for their mental health needs.

Without access to timely support, depressed youth experience emotional, behavioral, and physical health problems that can impact every aspect of their lives. The adverse effects of depression don’t stop at the individual experiencing the condition — they trickle down to the working parents and guardians caring for their loved ones with depression and even to the organizations those guardians are employed by.

Workplace impact

The mental health of your employees’ families directly impacts how they show up in the workplace. Like other stressors, concern over the mental well-being of loved ones can leave your employees with a lack of sleep, decreased focus, and added stress. Over half of working parents report missing work or being interrupted during business hours to address their children’s mental health needs. These factors can take a heavy toll on your employees’ own mental health and how they show up at work.

For organizations, this added stress can lead to increased absenteeism and presenteeism, decreased engagement and performance, and increased workplace costs if left unresolved.

Supporting employees impacted by depression

HR leaders should prioritize offering effective resources that support the mental health of employees and their families. Yet 55% of working parents report feeling they need more employer support to manage situations at home.

So, if you’re searching for resources to support employees and their families, consider the following tasks:

  • Encourage open communication —Help employees feel safe to communicate their challenges at work. Many may refrain from discussing mental health concerns due to a fear of stigma. By leading with empathy and encouraging leaders to check in frequently with teams to see how they are doing personally and professionally, you’ll help destigmatize mental health at work.
  • Enable opportunities for increased work-life balance —Sometimes, employees must step away from work to help those who depend on them at home. Fostering an environment with healthy boundaries that enable them to do so without guilt will help them be present in times that matter most. Some examples are flexible hours, unlimited PTO policies, and remote or hybrid work environment options.
  • Explore digital programs to better support adolescents —Evidence-based digital programs available on-demand can help eliminate many barriers to timely support and offer engaging programming to keep adolescents engaged in activities that improve their mood.

Big Health recently announced the addition of Spark Direct, an evidence-based digital program for teens and young adults 13+ who need help living well with depression, to our product portfolio. We’re working diligently to help employers meet the needs of their employees impacted by adolescent depression. By adopting benefits that support the mental health of employees and their families, you’ll see consequent gains in productivity and engagement.

Request a demo to learn more about Spark Direct.

Spark Direct is a digital program that may help individuals live well with major depressive disorder (MDD) and symptoms of depression by providing them with cognitive and behavioral techniques that can improve mood. Spark Direct has not been reviewed or approved by the Food & Drug Administration and is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Please read the instructions for use.

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During the COVID-19 public health emergency, Sleepio and Daylight are being made available as treatments for insomnia disorder and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), respectively, without a prescription. Sleepio and Daylight have not been cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of insomnia disorder and GAD, respectively.

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