Helping You Helps Your Employer

Mental illness ignorance costs more than preventative action

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) While issues with mental health may cause problems with work, ignoring the issues will only make it worse, studies suggest.

New Zealand’s Centre for Mental Health used national data sets to determine that reduced productivity at work caused by psychiatric trauma can be almost twice as financially detrimental to a company than sick leave.

"Incorporate team-building activities in the workplace.  "

Bob Grove, Ph.D., works at the Centre and acted as lead author on the study. With co-workers, Dr. Grove wrote an in-depth article explaining the benefits to businesses in re-prioritizing mental health efforts.

In terms of current practices, the team writes, “On the whole employers do not recognize or they choose to ignore the signs and according to recent surveys many grossly underestimate how many of their employees may need help.”

Their story highlights a commonality to look for amongst the mentally ill known as "presenteeism"—or periods of severely reduced productivity following long absences from work.

Previous studies recognize that people with psychiatric issues typically miss significantly more work, leaving them increasingly susceptible to unproductive lulls.

The idea that presenteeism causes twice the harm to businesses than sick leave is supported by further studies done by Southern Cross, New Zealand’s largest not-for-profit healthcare group. Southern Cross surveyed 461 employees in order to determine the effects of mental health on the workplace.

The organization determined that the cost of mental health per employee in the UK is roughly £1000, or $1,560 current U.S. dollars.

Dr. Grove recommends “two key principles.” First, he notes that preventing issues “is better than cure,” yet if prevention isn’t an option he then states: “Once a problem is recognized, the sooner you take action the smaller that problem is likely to be.”

In terms of prevention, creating a happy and healthy work environment focused on more than the daily grind is a good place to start. The authors note that wellbeing programs incorporated in work can produce a return of almost $7 per $1 invested.

The article is published on the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand’s website.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 25, 2012
Last Updated:
January 25, 2012