1 in 4 of Us… Yet All of Us

Mental health conditions cost the economy an estimated $193 billion dollars in lost earnings each year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. So therefore, as a business, you now know that mental health affects your bottom line. And that’s an important factor.

We’re beginning to understand the impact and the ripple effect mental health has in our workplaces and the importance of creating a healing workplace for both the mind and body. After all, looking at PSHA’s General Duty Clause 5a, you need to provide ‘a safe and healthful workplace.’ And that’s where mental health comes in.

People may still be showing up for work every day but not be productive because they aren’t well. It could affect your office culture, the performance of other employees and your bottom line.

About 50% of youth who have been diagnosed with a mental illness, mental challenge or a mental health crisis will drop out of school or take a long sabbatical. That creates a ripple of stress throughout the family (your current workforce) and the community and impacts your future workforce.

We know that one in four of us in North America have or are diagnosed with a mental illness. So, what about the other three of us? Whether family or coworkers, we are also impacted as we can be pre-occupied with thoughts of how to emotionally support the one in four while maintaining our own mental wellness.

A study about Employee Assistance Programs and mental health demonstrated that 20% of lost productivity was due to absenteeism, while 80% of lost productivity was associated with presenteeism. That’s being physically on the job, but mentally elsewhere.

So, why are most of us truly ignorant of the impact of mental health on our workforce? The dreaded word: Stigma. Education and discussion begin to break down that stigma, but we have to assure the conversation is grounded in evidence and that it is a mentally healthy conversation and know when to have that talk.

There is a worldwide education program for adults wanting to assist other adults called Mental Health First Aid. Over a million people have been trained since its inception in 2001 in Australia. In 2008, this evidence-based pro- gram moved to the U.S. under the National Council on Behavioral Health – and we are starting to see this mental wellness mindset spread through- out workplaces.

If you have staff members trained in CPR/First Aid, then you already know the value of preparing for a medical emergency. What about a mental health situation in your workplace — employee or customer?

We know that healthy businesses create healthy communities. Mental Health First Aid is a way to create a healthy organization. This training is ideal for supervisors and managers – the people who are continuously connected with staff and could notice when ‘something’s not right’ today.

Consider strengthening your staff — those who supervise others and those who interact with the public. A mentally healthy workplace is a strong, vibrant contributor to our region!