According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, depression is responsible for more than 200 million lost workdays each year in the United States, at a lost productivity cost of $44 billion. Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide and is a major contributor to the global burden of disease, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. It is not uncommon for anxiety and depression to go hand in hand, as nearly 50% of those diagnosed with one illness will also be diagnosed with the other.
In May of this year, the World Health Organization expanded its definition of “burnout” as an issue directly related to the workplace. Seen by the organization as the issue afflicting much of today’s workforce, the agency’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD), which is the division of the WHO that provides billing codes used by healthcare providers and insurance companies, is now parallel in opinion with psychologists and researchers who have been reporting these findings for some time:
“Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions: feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and reduced professional efficacy”.
Over the past decade, more companies have been incorporating mental health initiatives into their workplace wellness programs. In light of the statistics noted above, it is more important than ever before to take mental health into account in the workplace. Benefit News estimates that only 1.8% of employees with an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) utilize the resources available to them. Many employees fear repercussions from their employers, should they become aware that they suffer from mental illness. It should be the responsibility of the employer to ensure all employees are aware of the tools at hand and to encourage an open, holistic and direct approach to the promotion of positive mental health in the workplace.
Communication pathways must be opened throughout the workplace towards acceptance of mental illness and the importance of good mental health.
How can you engage your employees?
- Conduct a wellness benefits audit and convey all available EAP tools and programs to your employees, and remember to include the availability of programs to their family members as well;
- Host “Lunch and Learn” speaker events with a private Q&A session afterwards to provide maximum discretion and comfort for your employees;
- Include mental health tips and toolkits in your corporate newsletters and make mental health a cornerstone of your Workplace Wellness Program;
- Often, benefit program details are hidden in the fine print. Remove barriers to your program by hiring or internally appointing a workplace ambassador for your wellness program, get management involved in promotion and participation, including hosting communication workshops and mentoring their direct reports, and ensure the program as a whole is widely recognized and understood throughout your company.
A supportive environment is key to overall workplace wellness. According to a survey from Workplace Options, 42% of employers still do not offer any mental health focused programs for their employees and while 47% do offer programs, the remaining 11% are unaware of what is available to them. Ensure that your employees know you are invested in their mental health. Your corporate health plan budget depends on it.
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