Over the past few years, the awareness of mental health issues has been increased significantly.
While being absent and or being present at the workplace due to stress and mental health issues have been well known to employers, proactive treatment and prevention has not been seen as a priority. The time is coming when, like PTSD in military and first responders, issues of stress, mental health and addiction in the workplace will receive much more attention.
Mental illness affects a considerable number of Canadians. It is known that 57 per cent of Canadian employees and managers are currently suffering from a mental health problem or sleeping disorder, or have done so in the past. The cost to Canadian employers is significant.
The data for Group Benefits claims consistently shows that mental health contributed to 21.3% of all short and long-term disability claims. That figure increases dramatically to over 40% in the non-profit sector, particularly health care and front-line social service agencies. According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, It’s one of the top three categories of both short and long-term disability claims for more than 80% of Canadian employers, and costs more than $6 billion annually in lost productivity.
Characteristics of a Mental Illness
Here are some of the common and well-researched categories of mental illness :
- Mood disorders (affective disorders): depression, mania and bipolar
- Anxiety disorders: generalized anxiety disorder, (PTSD) post-traumatic stress disorder , obsessive/compulsive disorder and panic disorder
- Psychotic disorders: schizophrenia
- Concurrent disorders: addictions and substance abuse
- Personality disorders: antisocial personality disorder and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder
How can an Employee be helped with Mental Health
The stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness as well as family members ill-equipped to provide effective support are often barriers to help. There are, however, effective treatment resources available. Employers can take proactive measures to support their workforce. The first step is understanding as much as possible about mental health and how to recognize signs of mental health issues in the workplace. Often, workplace stress is a significant contributor. Having an employee assistance plan in place gives the employee an immediate resource and can make it less “awkward” for an employer or manager to recommend a support to an employee who may be in crisis or have issues. Other resources such as third party disability management can also provide expert advice and support for an employee in need.