Mental health in the workplace

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With more and more people talking about mental health in everyday life, particularly online, there remains a stigma about discussing it in the workplace. Around 300 million people suffer from issues with their mental health worldwide, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that this costs the global economy USD $1 trillion every year, just from depression and anxiety related problems.

The financial costs

In the US, around 1 in 5 employees suffer from issues with their mental health. In the US alone it is estimated that employers lose around USD $44 million solely through lost productivity from these issues. This loss of productivity is a result of both absenteeism; having time off work, as well as presenteeism; those that are in work yet making ineffective use of time.

This staggering loss in monetary losses surely should be enough on its own to grab employers attention. However, in the UK only 14% of businesses have a mental health policy in place to help employees deal with these issues.

Other risks

Lost productivity isn’t the only issue that can arise from a lack of policies in place for struggling employees. A common symptom of depression includes loss of concentration, which can make  accidents and mistakes more likely. In a manual labour job this could pose a threat to not only the sufferer but other employees. Finally, and in admittedly extreme cases, it could even lead to increases in workplace violence, discrimination and harassment.

An app in the right direction

Talkspace is an app that was launched in 2012, and aims to offer those suffering from mental health issues with real-time consultations with accredited therapists, whenever needed.  Consultations are done by messaging through the app itself, either on your phone or desktop. The major benefit of this is that it can be done remotely and whenever necessary; which should be appealing to employers as it could ultimately mean less days off sick going to therapy sessions in person.

Unlimited messaging therapy

The appeal to consumers is not only the ease of being able to talk to a professional without having to physically go to an appointment, but also the massively reduced cost. For a standard therapy session in the United States, for example, you can be expected to fork out between USD $75 and $150 for a single hour. With the app, however, you only pay $32 per week for pretty much unlimited service (depending on how quickly you respond, and on how busy the therapist is on the other end).

Looking ahead

Talkspace now has a business-oriented feature, whereby businesses can sign up and in-turn receive handbooks, posters for advertisements, and content calendars. All this is in the hope to normalise and reduce the taboo surrounding mental illness in the workplace.

In order to increase productivity and decrease absences, companies must begin, if they haven’t already, to seriously promote and implement good mental health practises. There are many other methods aside from apps such as Talkspace that could be implemented into the workplace in order to try and prevent mental health issues becoming a problem in the first place. Educating the workforce, managers included, on how to deal with work-related stressors would be a good start.

Making the workplace a safe environment for those suffering, and not somewhere that could ultimately exacerbate existing problems to do with mental health, should be an important goal for all employers in today’s society.