Building a mission around your vision for workplace mental health and well-being is key to better engagement, bringing excitement, focus, and productivity to work, and a means to future-proof your greatest asset–your employees.

The Costs Of Poor Mental Health and Well-Being

Psychological health and well-being is not a single state, but a continuum in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively, and can contribute to his or her relationships and community. It is the capacity of each and all of us to feel, think, and act in ways that enhance our ability to enjoy life and deal with the challenges we face. And it is a positive sense of emotional and spiritual well-being that respects the importance of culture, equity, social justice, interconnections, and personal dignity. Mental illnesses cost employers and the economy in two distinct ways: direct health care costs and indirect costs such as loss of productivity, absenteeism, and disability costs. Together, these costs are significant. Take depression, for example, a highly prevalent condition that occurs in 1 in 10 adults at some point in their lives. The economic impact of depression was more than $210 billion in 2010. Less than half is attributed to the direct costs of treatment (45-47 percent). About half (48-50 percent) is associated with costs to the workplace in terms of lost productivity, absenteeism, and disability. Another 5 percent is associated with suicide, which tragically occurs all too often from untreated (or poorly treated) depression. For every dollar spent on depression direct costs in 2010, an additional $1.90 was spent on related costs (i.e. suicide- related or workplace costs). Depression also frequently occurs with and exacerbates other medical conditions resulting in another $4.70 spent on those conditions.

“The economic costs of mental illness will be more than cancer, diabetes, and respiratory ailments put together.”

–Director, U.S. National Institute of Mental Health at the World Economic Forum, January 2015 Mental illnesses directly affect an employee’s ability to perform effectively at work and are associated with absenteeism and lost productivity; in fact, 80 percent of people with depression report some level of functional impairment. In one study, during a three-month period, clients with depression missed an average of 4.8 workdays and suffered 11.5 days of reduced productivity. And 217 million workdays are completely or partially lost each year due to mental illness. Another reason for the high cost associated with mental health conditions is that they frequently co-occur with other medical illnesses such as asthma, diabetes, and heart disease. Individuals with depression consume two to four times the healthcare resources of other enrollees.

Individuals with depression are twice as likely to develop coronary artery disease, twice as likely to have a stroke, and more than four times as likely to die within six months from a myocardial infarction.

All too often, people avoid or delay reaching out for help. One in three people who need help get it. This is due to stigma and shame, fear of impact on one’s livelihood, financial barriers to care, and inadequate access to quality care and support.

The good news

Psychological treatments work and they show a positive return on investment. Indeed, when employees receive effective treatment for mental illnesses, the result is lower total medical costs, increased productivity, lower absenteeism and decreased disability costs. The bad news…1 in 5 adults will experience a diagnosable mental illness in any given year. Of those, more than half of those individuals will go untreated. The bottom line is this: as an employer, you can’t afford to ignore mental health and well-being. Investing in strategies, resources, and support mechanisms for for these issues is key to engagement, key to productivity, and key to your bottom line.