Mental health issues affect many employees that are usually greatly overlooked because these issues and disorders tend to be hidden at work. Here we are going to discuss how mental health affects work? And why we should talk about it more?
Researchers analyzed results from the US National Comorbidity Survey, a study representing the mental health of Americans between 15 and 54 years old. The results suggest that 18% of employed Americans experienced symptoms of some mental health disorder in the previous month.
Why do we stay quiet about mental health issues at work? The main reason is the stigma attached to having a psychiatric disorder which also leads to employees being reluctant to seek treatment. This is especially present in today’s economic climate where people may fear that they will lose their jobs if they have a mental health problem. From the other side, many managers want to help but they are not sure how. And specialists and therapists may find themselves in unfamiliar territory while trying to treat patients and providing advice on how to deal with illness at work.
All of this leads to mental health disorders going unrecognized and untreated which not only damages an individual’s health and career but also can reduce their productivity at work.
Adequate treatment can alleviate symptoms for an employee and improve job performance at the same time. To accomplish these aims we must have a different attitude towards the nature of mental health and mental health issues.
Symptoms of mental health disorders may be completely different at work than in any other situations. The mental health issues can cause absenteeism at work but they can also cause lower productivity and less initiative. Many studies suggest that with proper treatment work performance can be improved but it’s usually not a quick fix, but a process that will take time.
All symptoms of the most common mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder are very well described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV). However, it’s important to keep in mind that symptoms can manifest completely differently at work than they do among family members, at home or in any other settings.
How are symptoms different at work when compared to other life situations?
Symptoms of a mental health issue can go completely unnoticed but productivity issues probably won’t stay unnoticed.
Studies are assessing the impact of mental health disorders on work by using the World Health Organization (WHO) Health and Work Performance Questionnaire. The questionnaire asks employees to report how many days they called in sick and how productive they were on those days when they worked. The results are measured by rating absenteeism and lost productivity.
In one study, researchers examined the financial impact of 25 chronic mental and physical problems. Researchers have polled 34 622 employees across ten different companies. The researchers presented the number of money companies are spending on pharmacy costs and medical costs for their employees. Also, employees reported on absenteeism and lost productivity by using the WHO questionnaire.
When researchers ranked the most expensive health conditions, what do you think was the health condition that was ranked first? Depression! Anxiety ranked fifth while obesity ranked second, arthritis third and neck pain ranked as the fourth most costly health condition.
However, the study concluded that the indirect costs of mental health disorders such as lost productivity exceeded the companies’ expenses of direct costs such as pharmacy expenses and insurance contribution.
How Mental Health Affects Work? And what can we do differently? Researchers suggest that companies should invest more in the mental health of workers not only for the sake of the employees but for the sake of companies as well.