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.
About the Author

Adrienne Selko | Senior Editor

Focus: Workforce, Talent 

Follow Me on Twitter: @ASelkoIW

Bio: Adrienne Selko has written about many topics over the 17 years she has been with the publication and currently focuses on workforce development strategies. Previously Adrienne was in corporate communications at a medical manufacturing company as well as a large regional bank. She is the author of Do I Have to Wear Garlic Around My Neck? which made the Cleveland Plain Dealer's best sellers list. She is also a senior editor at Material Handling & Logistics and EHS Today

Editorial mission statement: Manufacturing is the enviable position of creating products, processes and policies that solve the world’s problems. When the industry stepped up to manufacture what was necessary to combat the pandemic, it revealed its true nature. My goal is to showcase the sector’s ability to address a broad range of workforce issues including technology, training, diversity & inclusion, with a goal of enticing future generations to join this amazing sector.

Why I find manufacturing interesting: On my first day working for a company that made medical equipment such as MRIs, I toured the plant floor. On every wall was a photo of a person, mostly children. I asked my supervisor why this was the case and he said that the work we do at this company has saved these people’s lives. “We never forget how important our work is and everyone’s contribution to that.” From that moment on I was hooked on manufacturing.

I have talked with many people in this field who have transformed their own career development to assist others. For example, companies are hiring those with disabilities, those previously incarcerated and other talent pools that have been underutilized. I have talked with leaders who have brought out the best in their workforce, as well as employees doing their best work while doing good for the world. 

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