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Mental health is a state of well-being in which a person can cope with the normal stresses of life, be productive and contribute to the community. Good mental health is essential for functioning well as an individual and as part of a community. Addressing mental health and physical health together is key to overall health and wellness.

The Cost of Mental Health

Mental health issues such as stress, anxiety and depression are routinely listed as top concerns in employee health surveys, and are the second leading cause of workplace absenteeism. Even moderate depressive or anxiety symptoms can affect work performance and productivity. Most employees agree that their mental and personal problems spill over into their professional lives and have a direct impact on their job performance. It is in the employer’s best interest to address mental health as part of a wellness program.

Most mental illnesses are highly treatable; however, untreated mental illness can increase the cost to employers because of absenteeism and work impairment. Estimated costs for untreated and mistreated mental illness total over billions of dollars in lost productivity each year. The costs for workers who receive treatment for their conditions are significantly lower than for employees who do not get treated. Effective treatment can save costs for employers and can improve quality of life for all employees.

Ways to Address Mental Health Issues

Employers that support treatment of mental illnesses will not just generate cost savings in improved employee engagement and well-being – other positive results are higher product quality, better cost control, greater employee loyalty and a healthier workplace. Employers can do more to promote integrated mental and physical health care by creating supportive workplaces that encourage self-screening and connect employees to resources.

  • Provide materials and messages about mental health, mental illnesses, suicide prevention, trauma and health promotion through brochures, fact sheets, paycheque stuffers and intranet.
  • Offer confidential screenings for illnesses such as depression, anxiety and posttraumatic stress disorder.
  • Encourage the use of telephone help lines.
  • Offer a variety of mental health presentations and trainings for all staff with an emphasis on prevention, treatment and recovery messages.
  • Offer stress reduction presentations on topics like conflict resolution, managing multiple priorities, project planning, personal finance planning and parenting.
  • Provide flexible scheduling for access to classes during or after work. Classes could include yoga, meditation, physical activity and self-help groups.
  • Create and support a mental health-friendly work environment that accommodates employees who are returning to work after receiving mental health treatment. Allow schedule flexibility to accommodate treatments and appointments.
  • Educate managers and supervisors in recognizing mental health as a factor in performance issues. Address mental health issues specific to their needs.
  • Create policies and practises that provide guidance to supervisors and managers on how to address performance issues. Provide mental health consultation and information, and improve their skills in supervising an employee with mental health issues.
  • Review policies and practises concerning employee privacy and confidentiality, accommodation, return to work, and privacy guidelines.
  • Evaluate the workplace environment, organization and culture with a focus on reducing workplace stress, workload issues and performance reviews. Address employee concerns.
  • Provide employee assistance coordinators to help obtain information about resources in the community.
  • Offer an Employee Assistance Program.