The Psych Central Report

Mental Illness in the Workplace

By SS8282
January/February 2006

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Many employers provide wellness programs in their company. It is believed that a healthy body increases productivity, and decreases costs in terms of time off and benefit claims. These programs are implemented by having "lunch-and-learn" sessions, newsletters, or even building a gym right in the office building.

Unfortunately, promoting a healthy mind is not as popular as promoting a healthy body. This issue is made even more distressing when, in some ways, mental illnesses occur more often than physical illnesses.

Some people are surprised by that. They wonder why mental health is so important in the workplace.

Work-related stress and anxiety are two things that everyone, and I mean everyone, goes through. For examples, many people have fear of public speaking, and the anxiety level goes up when it is time for performance evaluation.

Workload and things going wrong are but two of many culprits that provoke stress. In some cases, people may have problems in their personal lives that they bring with them to work, and that may affect their performance.

Many diagnosed mental illnesses begin as "normal" everyday issues, and they become labeled as illnesses when they turn severe, and hinder people’s lives on a daily basis. Mental illnesses may even affect people in such a way that they become physically ill. They may catch colds and flu more often, have stomach problems, or insomnia.

There is a huge cost (both financial as well as health) when mental illnesses strike.

The Impact of Mental Health

  • The longer the people are without treatment, the worse they get.
  • It is easier for them to become physically ill, or have chronic symptoms.
  • More mistakes are made.
  • Quality of work goes down.
  • Absenteeism increases.
  • Rise in expenses that occur due to sick leave (i.e. A portion of salary is still being paid; benefits.)
  • Their work gets distributed to the rest of the department, which means more work for them, or hiring a temporary employee to cover the time of the sick leave.
  • More turnovers because of people resigning, which means the added cost of hiring a replacement.

In the event that an employee does have some kind of mental illness, there are some issues that need to be addressed:

  • How do you talk to your employer?
  • What are your (and your employer’s) rights and responsibilities?
  • Talking to your colleagues
  • Prevention

These topics will be discussed in the next few issues of the newsletter.

Last updated: 4 Feb 2006
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 4 Feb 2006
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