Taking care of your workforce's health and well-being is essential to driving down expenses. From short-term disability claims to absenteeism, doctor visits to reduced productivity, the direct and indirect cost of illness and disability can be staggering. You may have workplace wellness programs in place to try to relieve some of these costs. Chances are, however, those programs only address physical health. Here, we make the Case for Equality. Mental and physical health are both health, and treating them as such can make a huge difference on your bottom line.

Untreated mental health conditions are costly

20% of American adults live with mental health conditions, which means they are one of the most common chronic health conditions in the United States. Even though treatment is effective for over 80% of people, less than a third of people who get help need it.¹

Why don't people get the help that they need?

  • Fear of repercussions at work
  • Lack of access to treatment
  • Inability to afford treatment
  • Lack of education about how to get treatment
  • Pressures of stigma and fear of discrimination

These are all problems that you can help resolve by promoting mental health equality in the workplace. Why should you? Well, possibly the most relevant reason to you is that the cost of leaving your workforce untreated is immense.

  • The economic impact of depression alone was more than $210 billion in 2010. Indirect costs like lost productivity and absenteeism account for about half of this figure.¹
  • Depression alone causes the loss of an estimated 400 million work days per year.²
  • People with untreated depression are twice as likely to develop coronary heart disease, twice as likely to have a stroke, and more than four times as likely to die within 6 months of a heart attack.¹
  • Mental health conditions that remain untreated can ultimately cause disability. They are the number one cause of disability in the United States.¹
  • Absence, disability, and lost productivity cost employers more than four times as much as direct health costs, including Worker's Compensation claims.³

The impact of some mental health conditions, like substance use disorders, are even more easily quantified. Try putting in your organization's information into the National Safety Council's Substance Use Calculator and see just how much unaddressed substance use is costing you.

The good news: treatment works!

  • Over 85% of people with depression who are treated with antidepressant medication report an increase in their productivity at work.³
  • More than half of people who are impaired at work because of mental health problems are no longer impaired after just 3 weeks of treatment.³
  • 40-60% of people who get treatment for alcoholism remain abstinent. Another 15% resume drinking but do not become dependent again. This is comparable to treatment effectiveness for diabetes, high blood pressure, and asthma.³
  • Psychotherapy is just as effective as medication in treating even the most severe forms of depression and is more effective in preventing relapse.4
  • Every employee that recovers from a substance use disorder saves their workplace more than $3,200 per year.

Implementing workplace mental health programs saves money

Caterpillar, a manufacturing company, implemented a comprehensive wellness program with heavy emphasis on mental wellness. They experienced:

  • 40% reduction in lost work time due to short-term mental health disability
  • 35% reduction in long-term disability cases related to mental health

GlaxoSmithKline, a global health research company, created an extensive program to improve the mental health of their work environment. They saw:

  • 60% decrease in work-related mental health claims
  • 29% reduction in lost work days due to mental health problems

The City of Colorado Springs noticed that depression was just as prevalent as other chronic health problems, so they expanded their wellness program to include mental health. They experienced:

  • Decrease in severity of depressive symptoms throughout workforce
  • A savings of $3,136.00 per week from recovering absent days and reduced productivity related to mental health

For more success stories, visit this database.

Creating a culture of mental health equality ensures that everybody wins

Mental health conditions are included in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Here are some resources that will help you navigate ADA compliance:

¹ Working Well: Leading a Mentally Healthy Business
² Mental Wellness in the Workplace: 2007 Report from the Blue Ribbon Committee on Mental Health
³ A Mentally Healthy Workforce: It's Good for Business
The Efficacy and Effectiveness of Psychological Treatments
National Safety Council Substance Use Calculator

Join the Mental Health Equality in the Workplace Campaign

Go to the Mental Health Equality in the Workplace Resource Library

Contact Campaign Leaders at the Colorado Mental Wellness Network

Make a Donation to the Mental Health Equality in the Workplace Campaign

Visit the Colorado Mental Wellness Network's Zazzle Store