The demands of an individual’s job can be a rewarding experience to aid career advancement, explore new interests or gain specific skill sets. However, there are times when regular work duties take a physical and/or mental toll on a worker’s overall health. Recent studies suggest that nearly one out of every five U.S. workers considers their mental health to be just fair or poor. For first responders, the rate of developing a behavioral health disorder is higher than most, as one in every three suffer from varying severities of mental injury conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Poor work environments, heavy workloads, and lagging support systems from employers can contribute to traumatic psychological injuries for workers resulting in potential distress and disability. The most frequent work-related mental injuries include anxiety disorder, stress, depression, and PTSD. For workers with physical injuries, developing a mental health condition is more common than not, as 50% displayed a higher incidence of depression compared to workers without such injuries, particularly within one month of the injury occurrence. In addition to the high incidence of mental health injuries in the workplace, patients also experienced difficulty managing mental health conditions. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 71 percent of American adults reported experiencing difficulty managing their stress, in addition to feeling overwhelmed or “burnt-out.”
Several available prescription treatment options may be utilized to aid patients struggling with mental health problems and improve the overall mental health of injured workers. The most common medication classes used in the treatment of anxiety include benzodiazepines, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), with SSRIs and SNRIs, considered first-line treatment options. Some of the most frequently used medications include the benzodiazepines alprazolam, diazepam, clonazepam, lorazepam, paroxetine, escitalopram, and sertraline from the SSRI class, and the SNRIs venlafaxine and duloxetine.
SSRIs and SNRIs demonstrated extensive efficacy and are frequently used in the treatment of other mental illnesses including depression and PTSD. Some of the most utilized prescribed medications for depression include citalopram, fluoxetine, paroxetine, sertraline (SSRIs), as well asvenlafaxine, desvenlafaxine, and duloxetine (SNRIs). Nonetheless, there is no clear evidence showing that one antidepressant is better than the others. When choosing an antidepressant agent, the decision should be based on considerations including efficacy vs tolerability, side effect profiles of each medication, , potential drug-drug interactions, cost, the patient’s preference, and any additional risk factors.
The most popular medications used for the treatment of PTSD include paroxetine, sertraline, fluoxetine, and venlafaxine. According to the National Center for PTSD, all four of these options show equal effectiveness when treating PTSD. While there are other drug options to treat PTSD, such as nefazodone, imipramine, and phenelzine, evidence of their efficacy is not as strong as that for SSRIs, and SNRIs. When treating stress, psychological therapy is considered a first-line treatment. Medication therapy should not be given earlier than four weeks of initial symptoms. However, propranolol can be regarded as medical therapy for stress if symptoms are not improved by psychological therapy.
Addressing and improving mental health in the workplace is vital for several socio-economic reasons. A significant sum of $225.8 billion annually is lost due to employee absenteeism and other problems resulting from mental health in workers. The CDC estimates that up to 200 million working days every year in the United States are lost due to the poor mental health of workers. More important than the vast economic loss, the poor mental health of workers can result in miscommunication, disengaged employees, safety liabilities, declining job performance, bad decision-making, and low productivity. Considering the losses and the negative impacts of employees’ poor mental health on the job, it is critical to address mental health issues in the workplace. Prompt diagnosis and appropriate treatment can help ensure that workers’ mental health conditions are treated more efficiently to prevent additional complications.