A Trillion Dollar Topic

Considered a taboo subject in the workplace 30 years ago — something that was talked about in hushed tones around the water cooler and often referred to incorrectly as “a nervous breakdown” — the truth is that anxiety, depression and other mental health disorders are no longer looked upon with the same scrutiny as years past.

Mental Health challenges are now recognized as very real, very treatable, and things very normal people deal with. Fortunately, there is a wealth of options available these days to help people overcome these issues, but getting employees to actually use these resources can prove difficult.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 300 million people suffer from depression, the leading cause of disability, costing an estimated $1 trillion annually in lost production. Whether it is lack of productivity while on the job, or absenteeism, a company’s bottom line is negatively affected when an employee is under mental duress. For this reason, more and more companies are realizing the financial benefits of improving employee wellbeing.

Breaking the Stigma

Forward-thinking companies recognize that investing in employee mental health is every bit as important as physical health. But because of the stigma attached, it’s not always easy for an employee to open up about their struggles with supervisors or other co-workers. Often this barrier can be removed when a corporate leader opens up about their own issues, creating a safe environment for people who no longer feel the need to hide these issues.

Sometimes, just the relief of not having to try to hide it anymore actually relieves some of that anxiety. It can actually be liberating, particularly when you discover you are not alone and learn that some of the people you interact with every day have dealt with or are currently enduring the same problems. There’s an untapped strength in admitting it and facing it head on.

Whether it’s anxiety disorder, depression, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, bipolar, or any number of mental challenges, all can be improved with professional help. Postpartum depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder or Post-injury depression are all recognized conditions that respond well to treatment.

How an Injury Can Affect Mental Health

Post-injury depression for instance is an under-reported, yet very prevalent condition. Anxiety over the injury, lost wages and worrying about whether their job will remain when they return are very real concerns. Companies with solid policies for employees on leave are vital in the recovery process, including keeping in regular contact with the injured employee so this person knows they are not forgotten.

Spreading Awareness in the Workplace

Most businesses in this day and age take mental health issues seriously, addressing the hazards of stress, fatigue and anxiety. Making managers and employees aware of the signs of a coworker struggling, such as weight changes, withdrawing from others, changes in appearance or attitude, are all very important. Identifying the issue and having a solid plan in place so help can be offered promptly is vital to recovery.  

But the employer can only do so much. Reports show that less than half of the people who could benefit from mental health treatments available to them actually take advantage of it due to an antiquated feeling of embarrassment that is a remnant from a way of thinking that is decades old.

Put quite simply, Mental Health needs rebranded so that everybody feels comfortable enough to seek help when needed so they can live life to its fullest.


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