Understanding Mental Health
Employers and employees are accustomed to thinking about physical health and safety in the workplace, but what about psychological injuries? A 2015 survey found that 71 percent of employees report some degree of concern with psychological health and safety in their workplace, including 14 percent who reported their workplace was psychologically unhealthy and unsafe. Mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, or stress, are among the leading causes of workplace disability and the costliest. For example, mental health problems are among the top ranked causes of workplace absences, reduced productivity while at work.
Stigma and presenteeism
The Mental Health Commission of the United States and Canada has made a compelling case for investing in workplace mental health and anti-stigma programs. Both Commissions reports that 22 percent of the working population aged 20-64 is living with a mental health problem, yet the majority will not seek care. If not addressed, the impact of mental health problems will cost businesses almost 200 billion dollars in lost productivity over the next 30 years. Stigma is a key factor promoting presenteeism. To avoid potential stigmatization from co-workers and supervisors, people will conceal their mental health problems and delay seeking health care. Addressing stigma about mental illnesses in workplaces is one of the most pressing priorities for improving the mental health of workers.
Addressing psychological health and safety
Just as addressing physical health and safety is critically important, so is addressing psychological health and safety. In so doing, organizations will improve their workforce’s stability, productivity, morale, quality of working life, and reduce productivity costs. This means that, in addition to a social justice argument for creating psychologically safe workplaces, there is also a strong economic one.
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