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David Baxter

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Mental health: A crisis for the workplace
January 26, 2008

Mental health conditions are depleting the human capital of Canadian companies. This is the conclusion of a major research review commissioned in 2007 by Wilson Banwell PROACT Human Solutions and undertaken by Dr. Mark Attridge, a leading writer/researcher in the area of mental health and its impact on the workplace.

"Many companies face a quiet crisis - comprehensive measurements now reveal that the cost of lost productivity and absence from mental health conditions is three to four times larger than the amount of dollars lost from healthcare and disability claims for these same conditions," the report states.

The report, entitled The Quiet Crisis: The Business Case for Managing Employee Mental Health, draws from numerous studies on the impact of mental health in the workplace from around the world and synthesizes the key findings.

Craig Thompson, VP Customer Relations for Human Solutions, says the report was a response to customer requests for factual, research-based recommendations to assist them with decision making and improving the health of their employees and their organizations. "Last year we reported on the implications of work-life balance and job stress, and this year we wanted to follow up with a more concrete report that outlines for employers the most common mental health conditions that afflict large populations, the barriers to proper diagnosis, the treatment options, and what they can do to address this growing source of lost productivity and human suffering in their organizations."

Mental health conditions, in particular depression, bipolar mood disorder, social anxiety and phobias, panic disorder, schizophrenia, and suicide, affect one in five employees. Unfortunately, two-thirds of these employees do not get any treatment, and of the third who do seek help, it most often is from primary care doctors untrained to treat mental health concerns. Employees with undiagnosed or under-treated mental health conditions often struggle valiantly to stay on the job. Despite their best efforts, many of them experience lapses in productivity, unscheduled days absent, physical illnesses, and alcohol and/or drug addiction.

Not surprising, the report finds that there is overwhelming research evidence of the critical role that mental health plays in the success of businesses of all sizes and all industries. The good news is that there is sufficient evidence to show that employers who take action and implement policies and practices that are supportive of the needs of those with work stress and mental health conditions, will realize significant dollar savings in the areas of reduced overall healthcare costs, reduced disability costs, fewer missed days from work, improvements in productivity, and lower turnover.

"In developing this report we asked Dr. Attridge to focus on the value of a psychologically healthy workplace and what it takes to create one. The real significance of this document is that it provides the workplace with actionable steps they can take, regardless of how small or large they are, to address the stigma and discrimination that surrounds mental health concerns, and ensure employees get the right kind of help when they need it," Mr. Thompson explains.
 

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