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Tue, Jan. 21

How mental health issues impact the workplace

You're probably concerned about your employees' health and wellness. You may have an interest in promoting a healthy work environment, but you also worry about the expense of providing mental health coverage for your staff. There are many reasons why addressing your workforce's mental health makes good business sense.

The mind/body connection is undeniable. People who have untreated mental health issues use more general health services than those who seek mental health care when they need it. That translates to dramatic, and unnecessary, increases in your organization's healthcare bill. The website www.mentalhealthamerica.net offers a few alarming facts:

• People with high rates of medical service use have four times the prevalence of depression and anxiety disorders. Effective treatment of mental illnesses, especially depression, is associated with improved outcomes for chronic physical disorders.

• Forty-three percent of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress, and stress is linked to the six leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide.

• Researchers estimate that 50 to 80 percent of all medical illnesses reported to physicians have a strong emotional or stress-related component.

More than 90 percent of employees agree that their mental health and personal problems spill over into their professional lives, and have a direct impact on their job performance. Some more interesting statistics:

• Untreated and mistreated mental illness costs the United States $150 billion in lost productivity each year, and U.S. businesses foot up to $44 billion of this bill.

• Workplace stress causes about 1 million employees to miss work each day.

• Three out of four employees who seek care for workplace issues or mental health problems see substantial improvement in work performance after treatment.

• According to the RAND Corp., depression results in more "bed" days than many other medical ailments, including ulcers, diabetes, high blood pressure and arthritis.

Keep in mind that on top of all these factors, your organization may be experiencing more absenteeism, reduced productivity and inferior work quality from staff members who face the emotional stress and time demands of caring for family members who have mental health and related problems.

Many corporations across the country report that promoting mental health as part of an overall wellness campaign has resulted in reduced health expenses and other financial gains for their organizations. The cost for addressing mental health problems is therefore a bargain in the long run. Mental health education efforts more than pay for themselves - in fact, they are a business necessity and offer a competitive advantage. Launching an educational program on mental health just takes a little planning and time. Check out the www.mentalhealthamerica.net website, or call 445-5211, ext. 2703.

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