By CYRIL TUOHY, managing editor
Workers shown pink slips in this difficult economic environmental can roughly be classified into two groups: those that will need help and those who will not, according to Dr. Jeffrey P. Kahn.
Some of the employees who will need help will have been laid off, but there's another group of workers--those who will stay on at the company who will also need help to deal with "survivor guilt," Kahn said.
"I had a guy in New York at a bank, and his two best friends were laid off, but he got a raise and a promotion," said Kahn. "That triggered an anxiety disorder, and he was pretty miserable when he first got to the office."
Workers most likely to need help are the ones for whom their work is their identity, or those who've not made an effort to develop a social network outside of their employer. Those are workers who face a double whammy during a layoff: loss of income and loss of friends or social contacts.
Kahn, who works in New York City at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University and is also head of the psychological health consulting firm WorkPsych Associates, said he's seen a number of cases in which laid-off workers will need treatment for depression as the private sector cuts thousands of workers and managers from the payrolls.
Depression, along with panic attacks, Kahn also said, is a major cause of presenteeism, a condition to describe workers who are physically present at their job but not mentally engaged.
And while it may not be difficult to imagine that chronic depression is also a top cause of absenteeism in the workplace, it's also true that depression is hard to pin down because it doesn't show up in the claims data.
"There are no easy solutions because, when you look at claims data, it doesn't tell you what's going on," said Kahn, who delivered the keynote address on Thursday at the 17th annual National Workers' Comp and Disability Conference & Expo. "You won't find that on the health claims form."
Kahn also listed the top five causes of absenteeism and outpatient care use in the following order: panic attacks/major depression, stress at home, phobias, the fact that workers are not responsible for others and chronic depression.
Kahn listed the top five causes of stress to workers as: time demands and hours worked, taking responsibility for others, a feeling that the corporation isn't much concerned with its workers, unclear reporting lines, and tension between workers and supervisors.
November 20, 2008
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