Nearly one-third of human resource (HR) executives who participated in a
nationwide survey on mental health identified "mental illness" as
having a more negative effect on indirect medical costs than any other medical
Yet only 15 percent of these same executives said that their managers were
trained in recognizing a mental health problem or in suggesting that an
employee seek treatment.
Employee Benefit News, considered a must-read publication for HR
professionals with a circulation of more than 60,000, conducted the survey
with help from the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health, a program of the
American Psychiatric Foundation with funding from AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals.
The results were published in May in "Innerworkings: A Look at Mental
Health in Today's Workplace" (see Employees Still Getting Inadequate MH
Both Employee Benefits News and the Partnership for Workplace
Mental Health posted the survey results on their Web sites and distributed it
via e-mail to subscribers and business contacts, primarily corporate
executives with HR, benefits, and/or financial management responsibilities;
515 individuals representing large and small companies responded.
Employee Benefit News broke the news on the front page of its May
issue, and industry publications quickly picked up the story. Senior Editor of
Employee Benefit News Lynn Gresham said, "HR leaders are
clearly concerned about the impact mental illness is having on their
companies. They see the waste of potential and are looking for
Alan Axelson, M.D., co-chair of the Advisory Council for the Partnership
for Workplace Mental Health and a director of the foundation, told
Psychiatric News, "These findings demonstrate that businesses
are aware of the importance of mental health issues in maintaining a
productive workforce and the effectiveness of treatments for psychiatric
illnesses. Psychiatrists in each community need to establish partnerships with
local businesses to address barriers that interfere with access to effective
treatment. Offering employers the opportunity to join the Partnership for
Workplace Mental Health is a great opening step."
Clare Miller, director of the partnership, concurred. "We're pleased
that attitudes about mental illness in the workplace are improving," she
said, "but it's clear that employers need more assistance from the
mental health community in educating their employees and managers about mental
illness and the effectiveness of treatment."
"We know businesses look first to each other to find
solutions," Miller said, "and one of the partnership's first steps
was to establish relationships with companies that are leaders in developing
innovative mental health programs—companies such as Coca-Cola, DuPont,
JPMorganChase, and Pitney Bowes."
The Partnership for Workplace Mental Health is developing a Web-based
database of innovative mental health programs that companies have already
undertaken. The database will be online this fall.
A primary goal of the partnership is to develop practical tools for
business. Its most recent publication, A Mentally Healthy Workforce: It's
Good for Business, meets that objective by including a three-phase guide
for companies to evaluate, construct, and strengthen a corporate mental health
In addition, the partnership has convened a group of stakeholders in
psychiatric disability and formed a task force to develop tools that will
facilitate an employee's return to work. Plans are under way to run a pilot
test of these tools at one of the major big-box stores in the United
Alan Langlieb, M.D., M.B.A., chair of APA's Committee on APA/Business
Relations, said, "We are encouraged that more and more business leaders
are turning to the same page as the mental health community. We look forward
to working with companies to provide high-quality services to
"Innerworkings: A Look at Mental Health in Today's
Workplace" is posted at<www.workplacementalhealth.org>.
More information about the partnership and its program is available by calling
Mary Claire Leftwich at (703) 907-8561. ▪