Fighting Mental Health Stigmas in the Workplace

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The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that over 43.8 million adults experience a mental illness each year. Studies also show that over 70% of those with a mental illness conceal it from others because they fear discrimination when looking for or keeping a job. For many employees, the balance of work and life is a priority, and they are looking for employers who will support their well-being at work. While this may be a priority for the employee, many companies are left wondering what to do about the employee population with mental health issues.

The World Federation for Mental Health reports that 10% of the employed population has missed work due to depression, and on average 36 workdays are lost per depression episode. Mental health disorders, combined with substance use disorders cost employers over $80 billion in direct costs. Indirect costs, such as productivity and the rise of disability claims adds to that number. The costs and productivity loss alone should be an incentive to discuss mental illness, but employers are also under a legal obligation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to refrain from discriminating against, and to make reasonable accommodations for, those who have a mental illness.

As mental illnesses become more prevalent in America, some companies are setting a precedence on taking mental health seriously. Unilever, the maker of many household name-brands such as Lipton, Knorr, Dove, Axe, and Hellmann’s, has a global health initiative for all employees that includes a compressive program tailored to mental health. Offerings such as mental health training for managers and senior leaders, and regular workshops on sleep, mindfulness, and exercise helps to end the stigma that surrounds mental health and encourage employees to seek help if they need it. Not only focusing on the mental health of their employees, but Unilever is also using the Dove brand to help young people build positive body confidence and self-esteem through educational programs.

Another well-known brand, American Express, is providing the “next generation of healthcare for its employees” through a focus on physical, mental, and behavioral health. The company has added free onsite professionals, face-to-face counseling sessions in regional wellness centers, and rebranded their Employee Assistance Program as part of the “Healthy Living” program. Under this program, the company has also introduced enhanced communication, education, and behavior change programs to help destigmatize mental health conditions.

The nation’s largest insurer, Aetna, has recently founded the Campaign to Change Direction aimed at changing the culture of mental health and wellness in America. The campaign is partnering with over 50 businesses, government agencies, nonprofit partners, and communities to encourage others to reach out to those with signs of emotional suffering to help them get the care they need and to form healthier communities. For their employees, Aetna includes meditation and yoga classes as part of its wellness program. In 2012, they reported an average 13,000 employees took part in at least one class and saw a 28% reduction in stress levels. Over 20% of the participants noted an improvement in sleep quality and the company reported a gain of 62 minutes of productivity per week per person.

One of the most efficient ways to support employees suffering from mental health issues is through an Employee Assistance Program. The EAP gives employees access to counselors and clinicians, and services to help with workplace and personal issues. In addition to the core program, companies can also add educational workshops to learn more about mental and emotional health and training for employees and management. To combat the stigma associated with mental health, employers should create a culture that encourages talking about mental health. Companies that promote positive mental health and wellness can transform their culture, and have a healthier, more productive workforce.

If you or a loved one have questions regarding a mental illness, seek guidance from a mental health provider that is right for you. You do not have to face this challenge alone, Pasadena Villa can help. Call us at 407-215-2519 or complete our contact form to help with the next steps of treatment. Pasadena Villa Network of Psychiatric Services currently offers treatment at two residential locations in both Orlando, Florida and Knoxville, Tennessee, and outpatient services in Raleigh, North Carolina.

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If you’re ready to take the next step in the recovery process for you or your loved one, the compassionate team at Pasadena Villa is here to help. Give us a call at 407.215.2519 or complete our contact form.

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