What is the secret? It is mental illness. One in four Americans will be mentally ill at some point in their lifetime. It is a neurobiological disease that affects the way people think and behave. The good news is that it is treatable. Left untreated, however, they are among the most disabling and destructive illnesses known to humankind.

More than 60 percent of employers surveyed say the stigma surrounding mental-health issues in the workplace has either stayed the same or increased. What can HR do to help reverse this troubling trend?

The costs of mental ill-health for individuals, employers and society at large are enormous. Mental illness is responsible for a very significant loss of potential labor supply, high rates of unemployment, and a high incidence of sickness absence and reduced productivity at work.

“In the beginning was the Word,” according to a verse in the Bible. It is not a religious approach to mental illness in the workplace I suggest, but rather an educational approach. Written materials in the hands of each employee, posted on bulletin boards, company email, blogs, web sites and workshops for supervisors are small investments to make in avoiding very expensive problems.

Most employers offer an “orientation” for their new employees. The information presented includes details about health insurance plans, breaks, vacations, chain of command, etc. Why not include a section about mental health? Present a plan that demonstrates to every new employee that the company is mentally-heath safe with supervisors who have received specific training on how to help an employee struggling with depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety or other conditions. The supervisors are not trained to be therapists, but rather make sure the employee knows what resources are available such as Employee Assistance Programs and can encourage the employee to get help. The supervisor monitors any sign of stigma such as jokes, isolating anyone known as one with a mental illness. Such reactions are common when people are brave enough to admit they have a mental health problem, and they can often lead on to various forms of exclusion or discrimination – either within social circles or within the workplace. The fear of stigma keeps many people from getting treatment. It is the dirty little secret that is never brought out into the light. It can affect how an employee gets help before it is too late for them and for the bottom line of their employer.

“On top of this toll in money and human pain, mental illness is among the more difficult workplace problems to tackle head-on. Unlike most other diseases, it is one that many sufferers choose to leave untreated even when treatment is available. For them, the promise of some relief competes with the fear of being stigmatized because they seek help.” – Tom Gray Achieve Solutions- See more at: