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More and more people are complaining of feeling depressed, anxious, hopeless, and just plain out of sorts. These complaints have escalated during the pandemic. COVID is taking a toll on employees. Add working virtually and it is compounded. Therapists indicate that more and more people are seeking therapy, especially since the 2016 election and now the pandemic. Millennials, the largest workgroup in our workplaces, have an increase in depression. These are your employees—What are your responsibilities as a manager or HR professional in recognizing and helping them? How can you ensure your organization’s climate is a safe and healthy place rather than a climate that might exacerbate poor mental health?
Employers are seeing more mental health issues in their workforce than ever before. Each year 1 in 5 adults is stricken with a mental illness (National Institute of Mental health), making mental illness an everyday reality for many of your employees. Yet, only 1 in 3 people seek help with their illness. The ADA, HIPPA, FMLA, and most states’ human/civil rights departments dictate how employers deal with employees with mental health problems. Privacy laws create challenges for employers to determine how serious a situation is and whether an employee poses a danger (though those with mental illness pose no more risk of violence than those without a mental illness).
Examples of the most common psychological disorders include major depression and dysthymia, bipolar disorder, anxiety, schizophrenia, and an array of personality disorders. Those individuals with depression have 2.5 times the risk of on the job injury. Workplace depression results in 200 million lost days annually. The disease is common, debilitating, and the number one cause of disability worldwide. Employers lose an estimated $52 billion annually in loss of productivity and insurance payments.
In 2016, the EEOC resolved 5000 disability-based claims dealing with mental health conditions costing employers approximately $20 million. With the increase in claims came an EEOC newly released Guidance on Mental Health Discrimination which is addressed to employees informing them of their employment rights under the ADA.
Workplaces can and should play a significant role in minimizing their employees’ mental health risks. Employee stress levels continue to rise as more and more employees spend more and more hours at work without an increase in pay or benefits. Burnout and depression, particularly to millennials and millennial women are reported more than any other generation.
Mental illness is a largely misunderstood disease that carries much stigma in society and in the workplace. 70% of people with depression are employed, many do not seek treatment and when they do—medication is able to help only about 66% of those who are depressed. Approximately 20% of the population has any one of a number of personality disorders—those who do are often difficult to manage. Anxiety is one of the most common mental illnesses with some research suggesting it is the most common U.S. mental health problem; other research indicates depression is the number one disability. Mental illness is a covered disability under the ADAAA and therefore is subject to the law of the ADAAA including the requirement to engage in an interactive process. Managers and HR professionals often walk a delicate line in dealing with employees who may have a mental illness or exhibit signs and symptoms that give pause in considering if an employee needs to be referred for outside assistance such as EAP. But how does one refer a troubled employee without violating the ADA? What steps should an organization take to create a stigma-free workplace that is centered on the well-being of its employees’ physical and mental health? These issues will be discussed in this webinar.
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