There can be various reasons for any mental problem, some explained some unexplained. Anybody could be suffering from a mental disorder – serious or minor – and the chances of it being ignored are more, either due to lack of awareness or because of deliberate avoidance owing to the stigma attached to it. So, the chances are that most of us would be unaware of a peer’s mental problem at the workplace until the symptoms are too clear to hide. Despite being the world’s most developed nation, the United States is no exception.
Peter Cappelli, Director, Center for Human Resources, Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, said, “There is a lot of stigma around mental illness. There are still a lot of people who believe it is character rather than something physiological.” The reasons for such a high level of stress, among the Americans, at the workplace may be attributed to long working hours, job insecurity, being bullied at the workplace, lack of proper insurance, or career-related stress. The lack of identity that may result as a loss of job or opportunities in employment may give way to career-related stress and subsequent disorders.
America loses billions due to mental illness
Mental illness at the workplace is often cited as one of the main reasons for absence from work and lack of productivity in the long run. This, in turn, costs the country billions of dollars every year in lost productivity. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates a loss of $193 billion every year in lost earnings due to serious mental illnesses, with a conservative estimate of $300 billion per year in total costs. A mental illness can influence the employee’s morale as well as organizational performance. Researchers claim that stress-related mental health problems could be responsible for 5-8 percent of the healthcare costs in the country amounting to approximately $180 billion each year in healthcare expenses.
As per data released by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in December 2013, each year more than 41 million Americans – 18 percent of the U.S. population – experience some type of mental illness. The World Health Organization has warned that depression and other mental health conditions are on the rise. According to the data published by the National Business Group on Health, the indirect cost of untreated mental illness to employers is estimated to be as high as $100 billion a year in the U.S. alone.
Achieving a stress-free environment at the workplace is economically not achievable in most cases. However, what companies can look for is to reduce the prevalence of those practices that have the potential to cause mental disorders in their employees. Apart from the human resources team, decision makers of the concerned departments can attempt to nullify the impact of stress-related factors or implement practices which would improve health outcomes and cost for their organization.
Initiatives are now being taken at the workplace to mitigate stress-related health issues and tackle the menace of mental illness in the country. Clare Miller, Director of the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health – a project of the American Psychiatric Foundation – opined, “Employers seem more focused on strategy and action and what we can do to address the issue, and that’s a real positive and an indication that things have changed.”
Researchers from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) told The Guardian in 2015, “The number of employees speaking up about mental health problems is on the rise. More than two-fifths of employers say that they have seen an increase in cases reported by staff of conditions such as depression and anxiety.”
It is a myth that mental illnesses cannot be treated. The misconception that disorder of the mind has more to do with a person’s character, rather than a reflection of the state of a mind seems to be finally fading with more and more Americans discussing their mental health issues. The need to recognize and address the lurking mental health disorders is the first step to treatment.
If you feel that your loved one is struggling with some mental illness, which in turn can hamper his or her employment or career prospects, you may call the California Mental Health Helpline at 855-559-3923 or chat online with a representative. The 24/7 helpline can help you find certified medical interventions and therapeutic procedures.