Employers urged: Offer free mental health screening
MANILA, Philippines – In the past year, more than 1 in 10 employees in the US have missed work because they were either too anxious or too depressed to clock in.
These numbers are based on a September 2015 Harris Poll for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention cited by the Harvard Business Review (HBR) in a recent report urging US employers to offer free screenings for depression.
The report said clinical depression is the "silent epidemic" affecting America's workforce today. As it takes its toll on employees' productivity and performance, companies lose a yearly estimate of between $17 billion and $44 billion.
"Depression affects 9.5% of the adult population and translates to 200 million lost workdays each year. That's 4 million lost days a week," the HBR report said.
The World Health Organization said depression is a common mental disorder that affects 350 million globally. It is the leading cause of disability and a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease.
Beyond the economic cost, mental illnesses cost lives. Citing the US-based National Alliance on Mental Illness, the HBR said suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in America.
But depression, while common, is a treatable condition. (READ: WHO: Countries must plan for 'common' mental disorders)
"Employers can look out for both their employees' short and long-term mental health by encouraging participation in free and anonymous online screenings. By encouraging employees to take free, anonymous screenings, managers will also be sending an important signal that there's no stigma to depression," read the HBR report.
Citing the National Institute of Health, the report said up to 80% of people treated for depression – either through beginning medication, psychotherapy, attending support groups, or a combination of all 3 – will show improvement within 4 to 6 weeks.
The report suggested a few ways employers can provide for the mental health needs of their employees:
- Employers can educate their workers about mental health by providing information on mental health and screenings, and by integrating mental health programming into current wellness programs.
- Employers should reinforce the anonymous nature of the mental health screenings to increase participation.
- The mental health screenings should engage employees to become active participants in their wellbeing, linking them back to resources the company can provide.
The report stressed that while employee wellbeing is of utmost importance, employers will also stand to benefit if they encourage mental health screenings in the workplace, since they will see an increase in productivity and profit.
The mental health screenings will also help remove bias in the workplace, according to the report, and people with depression and other disabilities will not be afraid of the repercussions of their illness.
As it is, the US already prohibits employers from firing people with mental health illnesses through the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The proposed measure wants to make sure patients receive adequate information, aftercare, and rehabilitation. This includes protection from discrimination in the workplace, schools, homes, and elsewhere. But the provision on employment is yet to be fleshed out. – Jee Geronimo/Rappler.com