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Stressing importance of stress

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More than two-thirds of companies are unaware of how effective counselling can be in treating work-related stress or depression, a study has revealed, suggesting the subject is as much of a taboo as it has ever been.

In independent research, commissioned by PMI Health Group, 85 percent of businesses said they would consider offering counselling to staff – but 69 percent do not believe it can tackle stress-related absenteeism on its own, and result in a quick return to the workplace.

Clinical evidence, however, suggests that better access to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can help reduce time spent off work due to ill health, and its use for tackling anxiety and depression is supported by NICE (the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence). “CBT is a short-term therapy that helps individuals to change negative thought processes and behaviours,” said Dianne Hatton, PMI Health Group’s Registered General Nurse and Registered Mental Health Nurse.

“For the estimated eight million people of working age, experiencing common mental health problems such as depression, anxiety or sleep problems, CBT can be one of the most effective treatments.” Stress and mental illness is responsible for more than half of all working days lost every year* and a quarter of those businesses surveyed (24 per cent) said they’d noticed an increase in stress related absenteeism following the recent economic downturn. With an increasing number of healthcare providers having added CBT to their product ranges, referrals can be offered to staff through a number of healthcare benefits such as PMI, income protection, EAPs or, in some cases, even cash plans.

Rather than focusing on the causes of distress, CBT aims to relieve the symptoms of mental health by focusing on how problems are thought about, and how this can affect how patients feel, physically and emotionally. “Employees will first need to be assessed by a medical professional to determine whether or not CBT is suitable,” added Dianne. “Where appropriate, it will usually involve weekly or fortnightly face-to-face sessions with a therapist, lasting anywhere between six weeks to six months. Many employees will remain at work during this period, while for others the short-term therapy will facilitate an earlier return to the workplace.”

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