UBP blog

07/15/2009

May is mental health month, do you know fact versus fiction?

Filed under: Uncategorized — ubpblogger @ 9:30 am
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We all know that the current economic recession has taken a toll on employees’ financial health, but what about their mental health? The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, which measures perceptions of both current and projected future well- being, revealed that by the end of 2008, 58% of Americans reported suffering in their lives; 22 million more Americans than when the study was conducted a year before. A 2008 survey from the American Psychological Association found that 80% of Americans say the current economy has caused them stress. Studies have shown a linkage between economic-related stress and prevalence of mental and behavioral health issues.

As far back as 1999, the U.S. Surgeon General reported that indirect costs alone from untreated mental health disorders cost American businesses $70 billion annually. These costs include costs of absenteeism and productivity as well as those associated with hiring and training workers to replace those who are out on disability.

With May being Mental Health Month, now is an opportune time to educate employees and yourselves on mental health, the facts versus fiction. When there is an overall lack of mental health literacy in the workplace, it can stand in the way of resolving your employees’ mental health issues.

Myth: Mental illness only affects a few people and will probably not impact anyone in my workplace.

Fact: Mental illness impacts both employee productivity and absenteeism. And, it’s the leading cause of disability in the workplace. According to a 2001 Wall Street Journal article, in a company of 20 employees, chances are that four of them will suffer from a mental illness..

Myth: People with mental illness are violent; having them in the workplace opens up the risk of them inflicting physical harm on co-workers.

Fact: The vast majority of individuals with mental illnesses are neither violent nor dangerous. This inaccurate stereotype of individuals with mental illnesses has been re-enforced time and time again by media portrayals. A team of researchers at Cornell University who conducted a comprehensive literature review of this phenomenon in real life found absolutely no evidence to support such portrayals.

Myth: Mental illnesses can be caused by stress.

Fact: Stress is not a direct cause of mental illness. However, if someone already has a mental illness, stress can aggravate symptoms or trigger an episode. The true underlying causes of mental illnesses are biological in nature. So, if your employees are stressed due to the fact that they are overworked and/or face economic pressures, it will not lead them to develop a mental illness.

Myth: If an employee has a mental health condition, you should encourage him or her to just take care of it on their own.

Fact: Some mild mental health conditions such as mild depression and mild anxiety can be taken care of by an employee on his or her own through self-help and support. However, if such conditions worsen or persist, then you should encourage the employee to see their doctor or seek the help of a qualified mental health practitioner.

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