Impact of Business and Mental Health

Dr. David J. Koehn Psychologist Fort Myers, Florida

Dr. David Koehn is a psychologist practicing in Fort Myers, FL. Dr. Koehn specializes in the treatment of mental health problems and helps people to cope with their mental illnesses. As a psychologist, Dr. Koehn evaluates and treats patients through a variety of methods, most typically being psychotherapy or talk therapy.... more

Business and Mental Health


Dr. David J. Koehn


Taken from a series of resources from the internet here is a treatise on the implications of business and mental health.

It's likely that you, and every employee in your place of work, know someone who has a mental illness. In fact, it's estimated that about one-third of those with a mental illness are employed. According to the National Institute on Mental Illness, nearly a quarter of the U.S. workforce (28 million workers ages 18-54) will experience a mental or substance abuse disorder. Some of the most prevalent mental illnesses in the workplace include:

  • Alcohol abuse/dependence: 9 percent of workers
  • Depression: 8 percent of workers
  • Social anxiety disorder: 7 percent of workers

Despite these significant statistics, 71 percent of workers with mental illnesses have never sought help from a medical or mental health specialist for their symptoms. Look around your workplace and consider that, on average, 1 in 5 of your co-workers currently lives with a mental health condition. How does mental illness affect your life? Closer to home, that same 20% also applies to your friends, family members, neighbors, and our population as a whole. What's more, studies show at least half of these individuals, if not more, are currently not seeking treatment and may never get needed care. The prevalence of conditions like depression, anxiety, ADHD, bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder, combined with significant challenges with access to treatment and care, has created what many consider to be a complex and full-blown health crisis in America today.

One of the most undertreated and misunderstood mental illnesses in the workplace is depression. The mood disorder is more than a passing feeling and is a major—but treatable—illness. Depression affects all walks of life and even a formerly outstanding employee can be affected. No job title, organization, or personality type is immune.  When left untreated, mental illness can be costly to both the individual and the workforce. A RAND Corporation study found that patients with depressive symptoms spend more days in bed than those with diabetes, arthritis, back problems, lung problems, or gastrointestinal disorders. Depression accounts for close to $12 billion in lost workdays each year. Additionally, more than $11 billion in other costs accrue from decreased productivity due to symptoms that sap energy, affect work habits, and cause problems with concentration, memory, and decision making. These costs can increase even more if an employee’s depression is linked to substance abuse.

The good news for employers and employees is that mental illness is treatable. According to the World Health Organization, the vast majority (60-80 percent) of people with a mental health disorder will improve with proper diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up. Prescription medication treatments also can be successful, especially when combined with talk therapy.

There are several areas to consider when making your workplace mental health-friendly. Some ways to make your workplace mentally healthy include:

  • Employee wellness programs that incorporate mental health
  • Manager training in mental health workplace issues
  • Support for employees who seek mental health treatment or who require hospitalization and disability leave
  • An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or another appropriate referral resource
  • Health care that treats mental illness with the same urgency as physical illness
  • Regular communication to employees regarding equal opportunity employment, wellness, and similar topics promotes an accepting work environment

Despite the challenges, the nation is making progress with solutions, and one place where we can truly make an impact in the workplace. Employers have some of the best opportunities to provide much-needed services and benefits in the areas of mental and behavioral health for employees and their families. Currently, in my practice, I treat several patients who are participating in EAP and Managed Care. I also evaluate many for short-term disability and provide treatment under worker’s compensation.   

In the U.S., mental health and substance use issues cost businesses $80 billion to $100 billion each year. Depression and anxiety alone cost the global economy an estimated $1 trillion annually in lost productivity, according to the World Health Organization. While any impact on a company's bottom line can't be ignored, it's critical to make treating mental illness a top priority and do everything we can as employers to help ensure the best possible health, well-being, and outcomes for each and every employee. After all, they are and always will be an organization's greatest asset.

Some companies have introduced wellness and mental health first aid training as part of their comprehensive employee training program. The training teaches mental health literacy, understanding risk factors and warning signs for mental health and addiction concerns, and strategies for how to help someone in both crisis and other situations.  These types of training further the employer's growing commitment to workplace mental health. Another part of my practice that I get involved in is critical incident intervention (critical incident stress debriefings – CISDs), where I deploy to an employer’s site to help employees deal with emotional trauma like an employee dying on the job or observing a major accident at work.

Mental Health First Aid and Workplace Wellness programs are an investment in an area of critical need at a time when many organizations are focused on simply cutting healthcare costs. If more employers get on board with spending more on mental and behavioral health services, it can only help. The reality is that improving access to care and reducing stigma can help lower overall costs for employers and employees by virtue of better health outcomes in the long run. It can also lead to a happier, more engaged, and more productive workforce, and what employer wouldn't want that? 

When we consider how much of our lifetimes are spent at work, it's no surprise that the workplace can have a significant impact on our psychological well-being, positively or negatively. After all, it's estimated that the average U.S. adult will spend about one-third of their lifetime at work. Of course, there are significant factors outside of the workplace that can impact one's mental health, such as relationships, illness, finances, children, and myriad other external influences. Regardless of where the various stressors and sources may lie, the call for help needs to start with employers, to provide the programs, services, education, and training necessary to demonstrate that employees being their single greatest asset isn't just a cliché.

Bottom line, early intervention, and prevention programs can be fundamental in preventing progress towards a full-blown disease, controlling symptoms of mental illness, and improving outcomes. Anonymous online screenings are an effective way to reach employees who underestimate the effects of their own condition and are unaware of helpful resources. A screening program can also work well for small organizations that lack official EAP services. Quality mental health programs for employees can reduce stigma, raise awareness, teach managers how to recognize symptoms help organizations deal with depression, and effectively and compassionately manage employees.  It is important to assess your current work environment for effective mental health policies and programs. From employee morale to the company’s bottom line, mental health can affect all areas of the workplace. When the mental health of one employee is prioritized, the entire organization will benefit.