Bleeding money isn’t limited to American companies, but let’s look at them as a typical example.
Fact: Among those of working age, it is estimated that the prevalence of mental
illness and/or substance abuse in any given year approaches 25%.
Fact: Mental illness and substance abuse cost employers in indirect costs an estimated $80 to $100 billion annually.
“Employers understand that behavioral health benefits are essential components of healthcare benefits. Over the past few decades, employers have tried to improve the delivery of behavioral healthcare services in a number of ways. Despite important progress, employers’ current approaches to managing cost and quality are insufficient. Standardized and integrated programs addressing the delivery of behavioral healthcare services remain rare. And unfortunately, it is not customary for employers to integrate behavioral healthcare benefits offered through the health plan with behavioral health benefits offered through disability management, employee assistance, or health promotion programs. The result is that employee sponsored behavioral benefits are fragmented, uncoordinated, duplicative, and uneven in terms of access and quality.”
(See AN EMPLOYER’S GUIDE TO BEHAVIORAL HEALTH SERVICES)
What are “indirect costs”?
• Mental illness causes more days of work loss and work impairment than many other chronic conditions
• Approximately 217 million days of work are lost annually due to productivity decline related to mental illness and substance abuse disorders
• Mental illness and substance abuse disorders represent the top 5 causes of disability among people age 15-44 in the United States and Canada
• Mental illness and substance abuse disorders, combined as a group, are the fifth leading cause of short-term disability and the third leading cause of long-term disability for employers in the United States.
• Stress and depression probably explain “close to 30% of the total risk of heart attacks,” according to a cardiovascular physician at the University of Florida.
• Mental illness short-term disability claims are growing by 10% annually and can account for 30% or more of the corporate disability experience for the typical employer.
• Yet, less than one-third of adults with a diagnosable mental disorder receive treatment in any given year.
It is true many companies are making great progress in dealing with behavioral health issues of their employees, but there is a long way to go.
In my opinion, the current international news about how to combat terrorism is an interesting parallel with the way to combat the economic impact mental illness and substance abuse has on American businesses.
“Go to the source,” we are told by our political leaders, “and deal with the reasons why young people are deciding to join terrorist groups such as ISIS.”
I was struck by the similarity to the waste in business because the root attitude is not identified and managed. That root attitude is stigma. Fear of stigma keeps people from seeking psychiatric help when needed and stigma is fostered by many employers who are in the business of saving and making money, not educating management about behavioral health issues.
The Disability Management Employer Coalition’s 2014 Behavioral Risk Survey posed 42 online questions to 314 employers of various sizes between July and August last year.
The results suggest the stigma surrounding mental health in the workplace still very much exists.
Respondents were asked what level of, or change in, stigma associated with “having a psychological/psychiatric problem” they have witnessed in the last two years.
• Overall, 41.4 percent of respondents said the stigma remained the same, with 25.1 percent indicating that the stigma has actually decreased in that time.
• Another 24.2 percent, however, said the stigma has increased since 2012. And, consider that just 7.6 percent reported feeling the same way two years ago.
How do American companies save $100 Billion Dollars a year? Think of how we hope to keep our youth from falling for ISIS’s propaganda: change the message:
Mental illness is no different than a physical illness. It requires acceptance and treatment. To do no less is corporate suicide.