Corporate world called on to lead the fight for mental health

Business has a financial stake in sound minds

It’s in the corporate world’s best interests to spearhead a campaign against mental illness , according to the Global Business and Economic Roundtable on Addiction and Mental Health. The Roundtable is affiliated with The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto.

Roundtable co-founder and CEO Bill Wilkerson makes the following arguments for why businesses should lead a move to reverse trends in the growth of mental health disorders worldwide:

•The world is experiencing unprecedented rates of depression and anxiety among employees and consumers alike. This dilutes productivity and spending;

•More than at any other time in the world’s industrial history, business is dependent on the capacity of the labour force to think clearly, concentrate, be creative and alert – abilities that are affected by poor mental health;

•The price tag of mental health in Canada represents nearly 14 per cent of the total Canadian profits recorded by all companies doing business in Canada. For example, Syncrude Canada loses an estimated 11 barrels of oil production a year (about $200 million in operating revenue) as a result of mental health problems in its workforce;

•Through disability rates, absenteeism, wage replacement costs, prescription drugs and diminished productivity, business pays two-thirds of the entire cost of mental illness; and,

•In these uncertain economic times, the emotional stability and mental health of millions of employees and managers will be further affected.

To assist companies in the fight against mental illness, the Roundtable has developed a global business plan, which it calls Vision 2020. Some of the steps it suggests corporations take to reduce mental illness include:

•placing a one-year moratorium on mass job cuts to provide “breathing space” to mobilize the fight to reverse the trend of increasing mental illness;

•implementing office protocols that regulate the excessive use of e-mail and voice-mail, both of which are resulting in a 24-hour work day;

•promoting the healthy and productive use of the Internet at work. Evidence suggests that the Internet has become a source of addictive behaviour similar to that triggered by excessive use of drugs and alcohol;

•taking inventory of emotional work hazards and steps to eliminate them;

•promoting healthy productivity standards, especially at call centres;

•applying “quality of life” management techniques that focus on the self-fulfillment of employers, managers and executives; and

•activating special emotional protections against organizational abuse or indifference for jobs especially vulnerable to emotional distress like nursing, teaching, truck driving and call centre operation.

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