Mental Health Important to Company's Bottom Line

Aug. 11, 2011
More days of work are lost due to mental illness than many other chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma and arthritis, according to the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health.

While it is generally acknowledged that the cost of heart disease, smoking and diabetes is responsible for pushing up medical costs, it might not be common knowledge that depression and other mental health conditions are also costly.

More days of work are lost and impaired due to mental illness than many other chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma and arthritis, according to the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health.

"There is a business case for addressing mental health due to lost productivity, absenteeism and increased health and disability costs associated with mental health concerns at the workplace," explains Clare Miller, director, Partnership for Workplace Mental Health which is a program of the American Psychiatric Foundation.

"There is also a relationship between mental health and physical health. For example 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," adds Miller.

While 26% of the U.S. adult population suffers from mental health issues, only one third seek care. Individuals with depression (but not receiving care) consume two to four times the healthcare resources of other enrollees. Employees with depression cost employers $44 billion per year in lost productive time. (The Partnership for Workplace Mental Health has a Depression Cost Calculator.)

Treating depression was an issue for Caterpillar, as the company found that many of its employees who were in diabetes management programs also suffered from depression. The depression interfered with acheiving diease management goals, so Caterpillar developed an internal depression care management program in 2008.

Caterpillar takes a systemic approach to dealing with mental health care issues and found that an integrated approach produces results. The company's Manger of Behavioral Health Program works directly with the Medical Director of Health Promotion to track metrics in order to assure program quality. The company tracks:

  • Medication compliance
  • % engaged in counseling
  • Clinical outcomes
  • Absenteeism/presenteeism

Caterpillar is not alone as other companies are addressing this issue. To see what programs other companies are using click here.

Coporate programs have met with success as treament does work.

  • Nearly 86% of employees treated for depression report improved work performance.
  • 80% of those treated for mental illness report "high levels of work efficacy and satisfaction."
  • Treatment of depression results about a 40-60% reduction in absenteeism/presenteeism.

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