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New effort addresses depression in the workplace in a “bearable” way

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. --  If you were depressed, would you talk to co-workers or your boss about it?  Would you recognize it in co-workers and know what to do?    A new effort got underway in Kansas City Friday to reduce the stigma and the strain depression places on employees and employers.

Steve Kupersmith is a peer counselor at ReDiscover, a provider of mental health services.  Kupersmith figures he's lost a dozen other jobs over the years because of his depression.  He says absenteeism was one factor.

"Sometimes being depressed, it's hard to even get out of bed," said Kupersmith.

Nancy Spangler of the Mid-America Coalition on Health Care says "presenteeism" can also be an issue with depression.  People are at work, but unable to function there.

"People have difficulty concentrating, focusing, remembering, making decisions, even just being around people," said Spangler.

Kupersmith says he told some of his bosses that he had depression.

"They couldn't comprehend," he said.

A bear might help change that. The bear is featured in the Right Direction campaign to show the subject doesn't have to be unbearable.  Through the coalition, materials are available free to area employers.  The campaign is aimed at reducing the stigma and promoting early recognition of symptoms and how to get help.

"We're hoping employers will go deeper to look at ways they offer assistance to employees who might be struggling with depression," said Spangler.

She says that includes how employers can reduce stress in the workplace since stress can trigger depression.

Kupersmith says he now has several co-workers he can confide in.

"So if I'm having a bad day or getting down, I can relate to them or talk to them," he said.

He hopes that through Right Direction, other Kansas City workers will have understanding and support, too.