I am often told by my elders that 50 years ago you never heard of problems such as ADHD, bipolar disorder, anxiety and depression. Today, I can guarantee that most people know someone who suffers from a mental health problem.
Having a son with low functioning autism and dyspraxia has meant that my family must learn and adapt on a daily basis. It requires a steep learning curve and one which, with the rapid growth of mental health issues, employers now need to embrace,
Stress in the workplace is a contributory factor to lowered productivity, rapid turnover and even violence in some circumstances. Mental health and mental illness can also contribute to other illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and even addiction disorders.
How Prevalent is Mental Disease in the Workplace?
In the UK alone, about 30 percent of work absence is attributed to some type of mental illness. However, everyone has the right to work. What’s more, per World Health Organization, everyone has the right to “work in freedom and security”. That is sometimes difficult for those who suffer from mental problems.
Do Most Employers Make Allowances for Mental Health Issues?
Sadly, they do not. In many cases, the employee is unwilling to come forward and report that they are even having a mental health issue because of the stigma attached to it and for that reason, they often get worse, rather than better.
The ILO or International Labour Organisation has stressed the importance of the documentation of disabilities among working people and setting up rehabilitative and preventative methods to work with them. The same organisation has also stressed the importance of addressing all the problems that are inherent in the employment of those with mental health issues.
The ILO says that it is a “sound investment for employers and human resources departments to consider developing resources for vulnerable groups such as those who have mental health issues.” The mental health problems of an employee can impact the productivity of a business and should by all rights be a priority for every HR department around the world.
How Can Employers or HR Staff Help with Mental Illness?
Human Resources departments around the world can help their employees, and it is their responsibility to do so. One of the best and most important ways to do that is to ensure that there is no stigma or negativity associated with reporting a mental health issue at work. Employers should make it a point to treat mental health issues like any other healthcare problem, and they should actively encourage its employees to report it and to ask for help.
Employers must offer a clear way for staff to know that their mental health matters. Staff must feel comfortable communicating with their employer and make a commitment to help them to treat it. The employer should back up their commitment with a specific mental health policy that ensures that employees who have and/or report a mental health issue get the help that they need as quickly as it can be arranged. There should be no punishment or stigma attached to reporting this, and it should in no way jeopardise their employment. Further information can be found here: http://www.mind.org.uk/media/550657/resource4.pdf
What Makes this Action So Imperative for Employers?
Increasingly we recognise that mental health problems and their ultimate cost in the workplace must be addressed. Government policy makers, as well as employer groups and organisations and trade unions, are taking stock of their policies and working to bring them up to date. In the workplace, we’ve seen that mental health issues lead to other problems aside from those suffering from mental health issues leaving the workplace. These same problems have sometimes led to workplace violence and may lead to a much lower workplace productivity. Because of the broad array of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, the World Health Organization has repeatedly asked that employers see mental health as a top priority in the workplace.
The reason for this, in part, is that in higher income countries such as the United States and the UK, 23% of all disability is due to mental illness. That number is 12% when viewed around the globe. Of the ten leading causes of disability around the world, five are mental health issues. These include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and alcoholism. Along with anxiety, minor depression and stress, these disorders have a pronounced effect on the workplace and even other workers who are not directly afflicted by them.
What’s the Bottom Line?
Given that so many well-known and fruitful interventions exist for mental health issues, the fact that the workplace and the HR professionals do not embrace these interventions is nothing short of astonishing. It is long past the time for all employers to be helping as much as they can. Every company must pledge to challenge the stigma of mental health issues as well as take the time and effort to elevate the priority that mental health issues are given in the work world.
• What do you think?
• Do you feel Mental Health Issues are taken seriously enough in the Workplace?
Please comment and share and I will try to interact with as many comments as possible!
This article was written by Paul Dargavel, Senior Consultant of JGA Recruitment – the leading Payroll, HR & Reward Recruitment Specialists.
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Further Reading and Resources
1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15742611 – [Development of a checklist for evaluation of mental health activities at the workplace].
Kawakami N, Tsutsumi A, Kobayashi Y, Hirokawa K, Shimazu A, Nagami M, Iwata N, Haratani T. Sangyo Eiseigaku Zasshi. 2005 Jan;47(1):11-32. Japanese.
2. PMID: 15742611 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15742611 – Free Article
3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18333424 – The economics of mental health in the workplace: what do we know and where do we go? McDaid D.
4. Epidemiol Psichiatr Soc. 2007 Oct-Dec;16(4):294-8.
5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18194525 – Cost-effectiveness of a workplace intervention for sick-listed employees with common mental disorders: design of a randomized controlled trial.
van Oostrom SH, Anema JR, Terluin B, de Vet HC, Knol DL, van Mechelen W.
6. BMC Public Health. 2008 Jan 14;8:12. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-8-12.
7. PMID: 18194525 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18194525 – Free PMC Article
8. Mind.org Mental Health Publication. http://www.mind.org.uk/media/550657/resource4.pdf