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There is a mental health crisis on a national scale that also reverberates through local communities. As such, now is the time for a conversation about addressing mental health as a business community because, first, it is the right thing to do, and second, there is a strong business case for investing in a mentally healthy workforce.

That investment starts with an understanding of the scope of the problem and what role businesses play in causation, prevention, and treatment.


The Cost to Employers

With one in five adults (or 43.8 million adults) experiencing mental illness in a given year, barriers to or gaps in mental health coverage can impact a company’s profitability and an employee’s livelihood.

A recent report from the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions (NAHPC) noted that mental health and substance use disorders cost employers nearly $225.8 billion each year. Additionally, according to a study by the World Health Organization, more than 200 million days are lost from work each year due to depression alone. Meanwhile, workplace stressors such as overwork, lack of clear instructions, unrealistic deadlines, and job insecurity are contributing factors to mental illness among employees.

Mental health and substance use disorders impact more than just those who are afflicted by them. Friends and family become caretakers in the absence of other affordable options and employers incur indirect costs associated with mental health and substance use disorders due to sick days, turnover and reduced productivity.

While absenteeism is a noticeable expense, presenteeism – when employees report to work while ill – often goes unrecognized. The NAHPC report measuring health-related productivity loss estimated that individuals working with untreated illnesses cost employers $1,601 per person each year. The economic costs are glaring, yet few employers are tackling the problem head-on.

How Employers Can Create Change

 Creating a healthy workplace begins with evaluating your company’s current benefits structure and culture. Are there gaps in services currently available to your employees? Consider an assessment with a local mental health expert to assist in setting employee assistance program (EAP) guidelines. Whether its workplace meditation, yoga, or referral services – regularly reviewing, analyzing and communicating these offerings can increase participation in treatment programs and prevent problems from growing into something larger.

Training is available to help managers recognize, address and support a team member struggling with mental health. While managers are not, and should not, serve as therapists, employees should feel safe discussing their mental health and needs for accommodations as it relates to their day-to-day responsibilities and job performance.

Likewise, employers should be open to providing accommodations to employees with mental illness including job reassignment and scheduling changes. Encouraging open dialogue about mental health creates a trusting environment where people can ask for help without judgment.

Prioritizing the mental and emotional well being of your employees not only increases productivity, it can also transform a struggling workplace culture. Providing your team with the right resources and support to succeed will help ensure that they remain motivated and healthy to continue the success of the business.

Addressing the Stigma

 While the topic of mental health and substance use disorders has become more publicized lately with the recent passing of several prominent celebrities, the mental health stigma remains fully intact in our country, and in our local community.

Addiction, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other mental health disorders, in some form of severity touch almost everyone directly or through close friends and family. Yet, many of us avoid speaking openly about personal struggles out of fear of impertinent judgment or simply to adhere to socially established cordiality.

Our collective silence serves as a blockade to treatment for our friends, family, and coworkers. To reduce the stigma associated with mental health, we have to begin acknowledging that it touches us all in some way, whether directly or indirectly through loved ones.

For counsel on creating a mentally healthy workplace, and to learn more about other benefit programs you can offer as a small business, call the human resource experts at Erigo.