©Sylvia Johnson Photography 2007
It's just business.... Don't take it personally." With sayings like
that, it's no wonder that the business and mental health communities often
seem at odds with one another. After all, our profession is centered on
people, while business is centered on profit.
More and more, however, business is paying attention to its
people—its employees—and their mental health. Why? It's too costly
to ignore. Indirect costs associated with mental illness, including substance
use disorders, range between $79 billion and $105 billion a year, according to"
An Employer's Guide to Behavioral Health Services," a report
released by the National Business Group on Health in December 2005. Moreover,
more days of work loss and work impairment are caused by mental illness than
other chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma, and arthritis.
Earlier this year, the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health and
Employee Benefit News, a leading professional publication for
employee benefit decision makers, conducted a national survey to assess how
corporate leaders perceive the impact of mental illness on the workplace."
Inner-workings: A Look at Mental Health in Today's Workplace"
reported that corporate human resource managers recognize the tremendous toll
that mental illness can take on a company and its employees: these managers
consistently said that they believe that mental illnesses—more than
other health conditions—incur the highest indirect costs. The survey
also reinforced that there is much work to be done: many employers indicated
that they do not have programs in place to address this critical health issue
(Psychiatric News, September 21). The full survey report is posted on
the partnership's Web site at<www.workplacementalhealth.org/employer_resources/26739AZSurveyReport.pdf>.
For business, the good news is that there is a solution—access to
quality treatment improves workers' lives and their productivity. For example,
a 1993 study found that 39 percent of individuals who sought treatment for
depression, substance abuse problems, workplace issues or trauma-induced
stress reported a problem completing their work. According to Magellan Health
Services, 77 percent of these patients improved after three months of mental
health care. More recently, an article by Wang and colleagues in JAMA
noted that enhanced care for depression had a positive impact on clinical
outcomes but also provided financial value to employers as measured by a
higher rate of job retention and significantly more employee hours worked.
For psychiatry, the good news is that our Association has a program
specifically designed to educate businesses about the financial wisdom of
investing in the mental health of their employees. The Partnership for
Workplace Mental Health, a program of the American Psychiatric Foundation,
meets with businesses individually and in group settings to make the case for
offering employees mental health benefits covering high-quality care,
including early intervention and the full range of effective treatments. To
support this effort, the partnership provides educational materials and forums
to explore the mental health issues that businesses commonly encounter and to
share innovative solutions. The Committee on APA/Business Relations and the
Corresponding Committee on Psychiatry and the Workplace are active
contributors to this work.
One of the partnership's most popular resources is the free quarterly
newsletter Mental HealthWorks, which reaches more than 25,000 APA
members, business leaders, health care stakeholders, and policy-makers on
Capitol Hill. Each issue includes case examples of companies making mental
health a priority as well as new research findings of relevance to businesses.
Subscriptions can be requested at the partnership's Web site,<www.workplacementalhealth.org>.
Other Web-based resources such as "A Mentally Healthy Workforce: It's
Good for Business" help articulate the business case for investing in
mental health care; calculators are posted to show employers exactly how much
money they are losing due to employees' depression and alcohol abuse
(quantifying the return on investment for providing quality treatment), and
provide the latest in public educational material from APA.
The partnership's efforts contribute to the growing body of knowledge to
help employers understand and invest in employee mental health workplace
initiatives while also improving employee productivity—in other words,
doing well by doing good. You can help spread this message, using the
partnership's tools to conduct outreach to businesses in your community.
Contact the director of the partnership, Clare Miller
who has provided much of the background information for this column, for
assistance. Bring your voice to action for our profession and our patients.▪