Employee mental health a 'quiet crisis': Report

1-in-5 workers have some form of mental health disorder

Mental health conditions are depleting the human capital of Canadian companies, according to a new report.

Companies are facing a "quiet crisis," with lost productivity and absences due to mental health conditions costing three to four times more than the cost of health-care and disability claims for the same conditions, according to the report by Vancouver-based employee assistance program provider Wilson Banwell PROACT Human Solutions.

The report, The Quiet Crisis: The Business Case for Managing Employee Mental Health, draws from numerous studies on the impact of mental health in the workplace from around the world and synthesizes the key findings.

"Last year we reported on the implications of work-life balance and job stress, and this year we wanted to follow up with a more concrete report that outlines for employers the most common mental health conditions that afflict large populations, the barriers to proper diagnosis, the treatment options, and what they can do to address this growing source of lost productivity and human suffering in their organizations," said Craig Thompson, vice-president of customer relations for human solutions.

Mental health conditions, in particular depression, bipolar mood disorder, social anxiety and phobias, panic disorder, schizophrenia and suicide, affect one-in-five employees, according to the report. Unfortunately, two-thirds of these employees do not get any treatment, and of the third who do seek help, it is most often from primary care doctors untrained to treat mental health concerns, stated the report.

Employees with undiagnosed or under-treated mental health conditions often struggle to stay on the job. Despite their best efforts, many of them experience lapses in productivity, unscheduled absences, physical illnesses and alcohol or drug addiction, according to the report.

Employers that take action and implement policies and practices that are supportive of the needs of those with work stress and mental health conditions will realize significant dollar savings in the areas of reduced overall health-care costs, reduced disability costs, fewer missed work days, improvements in productivity and lower turnover, stated the report.

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