The far-reaching impact of adolescent depression

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

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 poor management of 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 COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated. Since 2020, rates of depression and anxiety in adolescents have more than doubled. And if these trends aren’t alarming enough, up to 80% of children, youth, and young adults do not receive adequate treatment for their mental health conditions due to limited access to mental health services. Only 4% of clinical psychologists in the US specialize in adolescent mental health, and these overloaded providers are trying to juggle exhausting patient loads. Nearly 60% of psychologists reported having no openings for new patients — meaning most are seen by their general pediatricians who aren’t trained in best practices for treating mental health conditions.

Without access to quality care, depressed youth experience emotional, behavioral, and physical health problems that can impact every aspect of their lives. And 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 your 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 added 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 treatment options for adolescents with depression —Clinically validated digital treatments are safe and effective solutions that alleviate the provider supply issue’s effects, eliminate many barriers to care, and offer engaging programming to help adolescents “stick” with treatment for lasting results.

Big Health recently announced the addition of SparkRx, an evidence-based digital treatment for teens and young adults with symptoms of depression, to our product portfolio to help employers meet the needs of their employees impacted by adolescent depression. We’re working diligently to make effective mental health care available to all — including those who depend on your employees the most. By adopting benefits that promote good mental health for employees and their families, you’ll see consequent gains in productivity and engagement. 

Contact us to learn more about SparkRx.

In accordance with FDA’s Current Enforcement Discretion Policy for Digital Health Devices for Psychiatric Disorders, for patients who are followed by and diagnosed with depression by a medical provider, SparkRx can be made available as an adjunct to their usual medical care for depression. SparkRx does not replace the care of a medical provider or a patient’s medication. SparkRx has not been cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for these indications.

DOC-3092 Effective 08/2023

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