Are your workers afraid to seek help for mental health issues or substance abuse? Most are, according to a recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive for the American Psychiatric Association (APA), which showed that barriers still exist for employees in seeking health services, particularly mental health and substance abuse treatment. Employees expressed concerns about confidentiality and loss of status at work:

“76 percent thought their status would be impacted for seeking treatment for drug addiction, 73 percent for alcoholism and 62 percent for depression compared to 55 percent and 54 percent who indicated status as a barrier for diabetes and heart disease treatment.”

In conjunction with the Partnership for Workplace Mental health, the APA offers these tips for employers to address these issues:

  • Lead by example. Supervisors and managers play a crucial role in creating a healthy environment by taking care of themselves. Set the tone and take care of your own health.
  • Promote prevention, early intervention and wellness programs. Encourage regular preventive health screenings, conduct health fairs, provide healthy meals and snacks at meetings, encourage exercise and promote work/life balance.
  • Discourage people from working while ill. Employees that need to take off time due to an illness should know that their employer wants them back – safely, healthy and productive.
  • Promote the investment you are already making. Remind employees of the health benefits and programs available to them. Make sure employees know how to access care, including programs like Employee Assistance Programs.
  • Reassure employees about confidentiality – this is especially important for mental health treatment. Remind employees about the ways that their privacy is protected when they utilize services, including Employee Assistance Programs.

In the current issue of Human Resource Executive, Tom Starner examines the survey and the issues raised in the survey in greater depth in his article Scared of the Stigma. The article offers various suggestions from experts on practices that will foster more amenability to treatment resources. One suggestion we liked is that employers consistently pair mental-health information with general physical-health information. We would agree that this would help to reduce the stigma, would reinforce the link between physical health and mental health, and would help to disseminate the message that help is available.

The Partnership for Workplace Mental Health, a program of the American Psychiatric Foundation, offers employer resources in conjunction with employer partners. It maintains a searchable database of employer innovations, actual cases studies of successful corporate approaches in key areas, such as screening and education, Employee Assistance Programs, and disability management. Also see why investing in a mentally healthy workforce is good for business. for more tools and resources.



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