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Good Psychiatric and Psychological Care for Workers Lead to Huge Benefits for Employers

Because of skyrocketing health insurance costs [NOT skyrocketing health care costs – there is a difference], some people are worried that employers may be increasingly unwilling to provide coverage for mental health care to employees.  However, most experts agree that this is unlikely because of the huge “offset” benefits to Employers who allow or encourage access to good psychiatric and psychological care for their workers.

What are offset benefits?  Mental health issues in employees are very expensive to employers by any number of measures.  Some of the most obvious are (1) decreased productivity from employees suffering from depression or anxiety, among other mental illnesses, (2) excessive absenteeism, and increased short-term disability costs.  Depression is one of the top five reasons associated with work loss and decreases in worker-productivity.  It has been estimated that American employers lose approximately $33 billion dollars per year due to work and productivity loss from depression alone.  Add to this the fact that at least 20% of all Americans suffer from depression in any given year, and one can see the scope of this problem for employers.

There are a number of other employer costs associated with depression in the workplace.  Depression tends to increase the amount of other medical care an employee needs and accesses.  Some estimates have this increased medical utilization for persons suffering from depression to be five to ten times more than unaffected individuals!  Anxiety and depression also have workplace consequences beyond the affected individual.  Employees who are depressed at work and not treated,  have been shown to lower the morale of their coworkers, resulting in higher turnover and general discontent.

Does this all mean that employers should avoid hiring depressed or anxious people?  Of course not!  Even putting aside the ethical and legal issues of discriminating against people because they suffer from a particular illness, almost every person on the face of the planet suffers from depression and/or anxiety at one point or another in their lives.  No, the obvious solution to these workplace problems is to ensure that employees have access to quality mental health care and that they actually seek and receive treatment when they are suffering from these illnesses.   Psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists and mental health counselors should be embraced by employers as important partners in the quest to keep workers happy, healthy and productive.


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