What Happens When Major Companies Take Mental Health Seriously

Psychological conditions don’t just disappear when employees get to the office.

By Lindsay Holmes Deputy Healthy Living Editor, The Huffington Post

May 16, 2016

Original Article Published on HuffingtonPost.com

Matthew Shaw was working as a journalist in London in 2014 when he experienced a bout of depression on the job. He realized that the resources available to him and his colleagues weren’t necessarily addressing their needs, and many people felt they had to keep their diagnoses a secret.

Fast-forward two years, and Shaw is a visiting fellow at the University of Michigan Depression Center, where he’s looking into how workplaces can make mental health a priority.

“A lot of us are bringing our mental health issues with us when we go to work,” he told The Huffington Post. “I felt guilty talking about it, I think a lot of people do. But the truth of it is, people have mental health issues and they go to work. That doesn’t go away.”

Shaw certainly isn’t alone in his experience. Approximately one in five American adults experience a mental health issue in a given year, but frank discussions about these illnesses are still lacking in the workplace. Many employees stay quiet about their conditions out of fear that they’ll only be further stigmatized — or even held back professionally — if they discuss medication, time off or therapy with a boss or coworkers.

“Studies have shown that [more accepting] workplaces have happier employees with better productivity,” Michelle Riba, a professor of psychiatry and the associate director of the University of Michigan Depression Center, told HuffPost. “Unfortunately, many places are not like that, and even certain types of jobs aren’t accommodating to that.”

Aside from the personal burden, not talking about and treating mental health issues openly is bad business, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Depression can result in approximately five missed work days and 11.5 days of reduced productivity every three months for an individual. Overall, it costs 200 million lost workdays per year in the United States at a cost of $17 to $44 billion dollars in lost productivity. Simply put, company success relies on healthy employees.