Help Your Clients
Manage mental health disability in the workplace
By Stan Kulesa, Assistant Vice President of Benefits, The Standard
Your clients may be dealing with a side effect of today’s economy – an increase in mental illness disability, as well as stress-related productivity loss. You can position yourself as a valuable resource by sharing trends and solutions that can help your clients’ employees and their bottom lines.
The surprising impact of mental illness
Mental disorders are the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and Canada for people ages 15 - 44. Annually, more than one-quarter of the U.S. population will be diagnosed with a mental disorder, but only about one-third of those will receive treatment.1 In addition, an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association noted that workers with depression reported significantly more total health-related lost productivity time than those without depression.2
Financial concerns and stress caused by the current economic climate can also increase the risk of compulsive behaviors like overeating, substance abuse and smoking.3 At the same time, many people have less disposable income and are cutting back on preventative care or prescription medication.4
The greatest barrier preventing people from accessing mental health care is stigma. Few employers engage in practices that specifically target employees’ psychological health. However, 80 percent of patients respond well to treatment.5
Managing mental illness in the workplace
While each workplace is unique, many clients can benefit from the following solutions, used in combination with absence management services:
- Create a health and productivity-focused culture
- Make mental health a prominent initiative and educate employees
- Align the benefit plan’s mental health coverage with wellness programs
- Include stress management, substance abuse counseling and support groups
- Partner with vendors and experts
- Healthcare, disability and workers’ compensation providers
- Governmental and non-profit organizations, such as U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, state health departments and Mental Health America
- Maximize Employee Assistance Program utilization
- Build (or enhance) a stay at work/return to work Program
Being proactive is the first step
Be proactive in consulting with clients and encourage them to develop their own approach to mental health in the workplace. Suggest a review of their current processes. And remind them that even small changes can yield positive results.
1. National Institute of Mental Health, February 2009. American Institute of Stress.
2. "Reducing the Burden of Depression: Building Villages for Coordinated Care". Journal of the American Medical Association, September 26, 2007.
3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, April 2009.
4. AARP "Impact of Economy on Health Behaviors", November 2008.
5. "Depression: A Treatable Illness". National Institute of Mental Health, Publication No. 03-5299.04, July 2004.