News ID: 151554
Published: 0446 GMT May 17, 2016

Major companies take mental health seriously

Major companies take mental health seriously

Matthew Shaw was working as a journalist in London in 2014 when he experienced a bout of depression on the job. He realized that the resources available to him and his colleagues weren’t necessarily addressing their needs, and many people felt they had to keep their diagnoses a secret.

Fast-forward two years, and Shaw is a visiting fellow at the University of Michigan Depression Center, where he’s looking into how workplaces can make mental health a priority, reported.

“A lot of us are bringing our mental health issues with us when we go to work,” he told the Huffington Post. “I felt guilty talking about it, I think a lot of people do. But the truth of it is, people have mental health issues and they go to work. That doesn’t go away.”

Shaw certainly isn’t alone in his experience. Approximately one in five American adults experience a mental health issue in a given year, but frank discussions about these illnesses are still lacking in the workplace. Many employees stay quiet about their conditions out of fear that they’ll only be further stigmatized — or even held back professionally — if they discuss medication, time off or therapy with a boss or coworkers.

“Studies have shown that [more accepting] workplaces have happier employees with better productivity,” Michelle Riba, a professor of psychiatry and the associate director of the University of Michigan Depression Center, said. “Unfortunately, many places are not like that, and even certain types of jobs aren’t accommodating to that.”

Aside from the personal burden, not talking about and treating mental health issues openly is bad business, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Depression can result in approximately five missed work days and 11.5 days of reduced productivity every three months for an individual. Overall, it costs 200 million lost workdays per year in the United States at a cost of $17 to $44 billion dollars in lost productivity. Simply put, company success relies on healthy employees.

Research shows that mental health treatment can help people live better lives. The more comfortable employees feel, Riba said, the more likely it is they’ll seek help for managing psychological issues.

While there are laws in place that protect people with serious illnesses including depression from being fired because of their health challenges, employees need to disclose the nature of their condition in order to get this protection.

Experts argue that if you’re able to be open about a physical disease with a manager — something like cancer or diabetes — the same mindset and courtesy should be applied to mental health. Employers should view someone’s health as a unit, says Donna Hardaker, a workplace mental health consultant and director of Mental Health America of California’s Wellness Works project.

“Organizations need to be strategically addressing psychological health in the workplace,” she explained. “All decisions regarding employees, work and projects should be looked at through a holistic lens and how it affects an employee’s overall wellbeing. It takes time, it takes strong leadership to push against internal challenges around change, but that’s the best solution.

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