The Business Case for Speaking Up About Mental Health

An interesting article from Forbes:

In a recent study of 1,000 employees, 62% of respondents said having someone in a leadership role speak openly about mental health would make them feel more comfortable talking about it themselves. The research also showed that only 26% felt any action was being taken to address mental health in the workplace…

This…this is important. For many reasons.

First, let’s take a quick look at the economy. Unemployment is low in most places, and that makes it clear that it’s an employees market. Companies have to work harder than ever to get the right kind of talent, and in many cases, a good salary and benefits package just isn’t enough. Many employees – such as millennials – want to know about a company’s values and culture. They want to make sure they are working at a place where they will feel happy, valued and safe.

And that is where mental health conversations come in.

If this information is accurate – and I have no doubt that it is – businesses can use mental health conversations and care in order to better recruit. Furthermore, not only can this help them get better employees, but it can help them reduce costs. Stigma is associated with a delay in getting care, and that leads to major lost dollars for companies. According to estimates, the direct and indirect costs of mental illness are north of $2.5 trillion dollars.

Even the slightest dent in these figures can save millions, if not billions, and can make a real impact on the bottom line of a company, and you don’t need to look at a study to know that, because you know it yourself. When you are down, when you are anxious, you just aren’t as good as when you are feeling better. This leads to worse work products for you, your team and your company.

All of this begs the question:¬†What can a business do? I’d offer a few suggestions.

First – to the extent that members of a company’s leadership feel comfortable – they should talk about their own mental health struggles. An important way by which we can create a culture which kills mental health stigma is by having people at the top and bottom of an organizations hierarchy talk about their own struggles, how they overcame them, and how they cared for themselves.

Second – have mental-health friendly policies. Yes, this means explicitly stating that mental health days are real, that mental illness deserves to be treated, and that your company expects their employees to take care of themselves. And remember, if you are a manager or supervisor, you set the tone. Take those days yourself, and be honest with those you supervise when you do.

Third – a business must make sure that their insurance covers mental health, and covers it to the same extent that physical health is covered. While mental health is supposed to be covered at levels identical to physical healthcare, that isn’t always the case, sadly. It is on a business to ensure that the coverage which they offer is robust, fair and covers all the needs of their employees, including mental health care.

As always, I conclude by turning it over to you. What am I missing? What else should we discuss? Let us know in the comments!