The Untold Truth About Mental Health In The Workplace
Mental health is a significant issue that affects us all. It's time we talk about it.
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I live with multiple mental disorders. I've also held numerous leadership roles throughout my career and have been ridiculed for holding them since I went public about my mental health. Every day I am impacted by my mental health implications. But it's not just my problem as an individual; it's a societal one. Mental health is a significant issue, it affects us all, and we need to discuss it.
1 in 4 disabled workers has some type of mental or behavioral impairment. Many people struggle with their mental well-being and cannot help others due to the stigma surrounding mental illness. This leaves them feeling isolated and alone, exacerbating their conditions further down the line. It's time for us as individuals to open up about our experiences so that others may learn from them and do better for themselves going forward.
About 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness. That's 20%. The number of Americans who experience some form of mental illness is quite staggering, with 43.7 million people experiencing a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. But it's not just America that has mental health issues; it's a global problem. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 300 million people globally have depression and anxiety disorders.
These figures reflect the reality that mental health has significant consequences for everyone, including your employees or the people within your business — whether they're dealing directly with them or not.
The economic costs of mental illness to employers, employees, families and society are significant. While there is no way to put an exact dollar amount on the burden that mental illness places on workplaces — and it varies by the condition — it has been estimated that the price tag for the collective disorders is more than $150 billion annually, according to JAMA Psychiatry.
One of the biggest reasons for the under-reporting of mental health issues in the workplace is the fear that people have regarding their employer's response. Over 40% of people who have experienced poor mental health did not feel able to disclose it to their employer. And it's estimated that 70 million working days are lost each year due to mental health conditions.
Mental health issues are the most common cause of employee absenteeism and it's estimated that more than half of all mental illness cases go undiagnosed and untreated. What's more, many employers don't realize how much an employee's mental health can impact their job performance until they experience an on-site crisis or an employee arriving late after missing several days due to depression or anxiety.
Mental health disorders are significant drivers of short-term disability claims. A recent survey found that 57% of workers had experienced a mental health condition within the past year. The same study found that over half of all working adults reported feeling burnt out at work, and more than 1 in 5 reported feeling hopeless about their jobs. While these numbers may seem high, they're actually just the tip of the iceberg. Mental health conditions are significantly underreported due to stigma and fear around disclosure.
A recent survey found that over 40% of people who have experienced poor mental health did not feel able to disclose this to their employer. This can be down to several factors, including:
- Stigma around mental health issues — many employers don't understand what it is like to experience a mental health problem, so they don't always know how best to support someone.
- Repercussions at work — some individuals worry about being treated differently by colleagues or management if they disclose their condition (whether this is warranted or not).
- Job loss — Some people are concerned that telling their employer about a diagnosed condition could put them at risk of losing their job or having pay reduced.
Mental health care is not always easy to access. Mental health care is not always practical. Mental health care is not always affordable. And even if you can get mental health care, it's often inconvenient or challenging to get to when you need it most. Only 40% of people who access mental health care receive high-quality care. As a result, many people go without the care they need. And when people with serious mental health problems get help, it's often too late — by the time they reach out for support, their conditions may have spiraled out of control.
Mental health matters. It affects everyone; whether you're a manager, an employee, or a leader, it's essential to understand how this issue impacts their employees. This is why we need to start talking about it—and, more importantly, acting on it.