According to the World Health Organisation (WHO)
Mental Health is described as being…

‘a state of well-being in which the
individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope
with the normal stresses of life, can work productively
& fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his
or her community’…

…Yet, how often is that happening in organisations?

Why is this topic so important?

It doesn’t matter which country you look at, the direct and indirect costs of mental health & stress on individuals, companies, the health system and society in general, world-wide, are escalating yearly.

The EU Region (figures for 2016) indicate that it costs E798 Billion annually and is set to double by 2030.

In the USA the yearly costs of depression (one aspect of mental health), costs society $210 Billion per annum. (N B: This also includes related issues such as: anxiety, PTSD, back disorders and sleep problems and migraines, which health professionals indicate all stem from depression.) For every dollar spent on depression, an additional $4.70 is spent on indirect costs of related illnesses. (Paul E Greenberg, 2015)

In Australia and New Zealand, the overall costs of mental health & stress illness is estimated to be $56.7 Billion as at 2016.

Professor Allan Fels, Chair of the National Mental Health Commission, Australia, states:

….” As an economist, I want to emphasise that Mental Health
is a significant problem for our economy… many people do
not receive the support they need… Mental Health results
in a substantial loss of productivity and for Australian business,
this results in around 12 Million days of reduced productivity
a year.”

Introduction:  Celine’s approach and contribution to resolving mental health & stress issues

The World-Wide Economic Costs of the Effects of Mental Health & Stress Issues on Business and Society

In 2010 mental and substance abuse disorders constituted 10.4% of the global burden of disease…

In their enlightening paper, Trautman, Rehn and Wittchan, 2016 state…

….” Mental disorders therefore account for more economic
costs than chronic somatic diseases such as cancer and diabetes…”

They go on to state that the data indicate that the global direct and indirect costs of mental health disorders were estimated at US $2.5 Trillion, the indirect costs being higher than the direct costs.

Direct costs include: Healthcare – medication, physician visits and hospitalisation.

Indirect costs include: Productivity losses due to work absence and/or early retirement, and Income losses – due to mortality, disability and care seeking.

It has been projected that based on initial costs already known, that between 2011 and 2030 the cumulative economic output loss associated with mental disorders is projected to be US $16.3 Trillion worldwide,making the economic output loss related to mental health disorders comparable to: cardiovascular diseases, and higher than that of cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes.

A short summary: Costs v Alleviation

Mental health disorders cause tremendous economic costs directly via relatively low costs in the health care system and indirectly via proportionally high productivity losses and impact on economic growth.

This pattern of relatively low direct costs v comparatively high indirect costs is different from almost all other disease groups even though the full range of mental health disorders has barely been taken into account.

Mental disorders therefore account for more economic costs than chronic somatic diseases such as cancer or diabetes, and their costs are expected to increase exponentially over the next 15 years (2016).

It has been asserted that access to mental health care is generally restricted owing to the lack of personnel and infrastructure, and effective evidence-based treatments are not provided. Importantly, specific prevention is almost completely lacking.

You have to ask: does this assertion justify the lack of action of implementation of stress-based programs to help alleviate the already “proven” research studies that show workers are stressed?

What is the political commitment to address this endemic problem?

The researchers say we have to acknowledge that the development and implementation of sound and effective diagnostic and treatment measures for mental health is still in its relative infancy.

Capacity is far behind other disease areas.

The other thing hindering progress is that people seem to believe that mental and substance abuse disorders are not “real diseases”, that they cannot be treated effectively and that people affected are at least partly responsible.

This means that societies are willing to spend much more on somatic diseases than on mental disorders, even though both disability and economic costs are at least as high as those caused by somatic conditions.

In Australia the consensus is that employers have a duty of care to make employees aware of mental health issues and to help them understand what that means. There appears to be no consensus of what to do after that and what programs are available and how to implement them. There is a dearth of lack of knowledge in this area.

What are mental health disorders?

Mental health disorders include a number of diagnosable and states of vague feelings of un-wellness.

The ones which are most common in organisations are: anxiety and depression. These states are known to the healthcare system, are diagnosable, can be medicated for to ease symptoms and appear to be on the less severe scale of mental health issues.

As a general concept a mental health issue can be defined as:

  • That which is a clinical condition (e.g. anxiety, depression. PTSD)
  • Diagnosed by a mental health professional that significantly interferes with a person’s cognitive, emotional and social abilities (to varying degrees of severity).
  • Mental health has been described as a floating kind of issue whereby people move between positive and negative responses to different stressors and experiences over time.

What is being done for the enormous category of the workforce who have NOT been clinically diagnosed by a health practitioner with a formally, “diagnosable” mental health issue?

Why wait until someone is clinically depressed or diagnosed with clinical anxiety before instigating some program of mental health care?

The vast majority of the workforce, although depressed, in some way, either mild, medium of severely depressed, yet who have not been diagnosed as such, need programs in order to be able to reduce not only the symptoms, but also the cause of the recurring depression or anxiety. These are the very workers who need help now, not some time in the future when they cannot cope at all and need medication permanently. The medication, hopefully, is going to help them cope better, but it still does not get to the real cause of those stress-based issues.

Mental Health is about Wellness

…rather than illness and is not merely the absence of a mental health condition.

A person’s mental health moves back and forth along a range between health and function to severe impact on everyday functioning – in response to different stressors and circumstances.

Where do mental health issues arise from and why do they arise?

Dr Bruce Lipton, Biologist, in his book, The Biology of Belief, states that up to 95% of all disease, dis-ease, failure and non-success is stress based. So, the individual is creating the disease themselves, mostly inadvertently.

Dr Lipton goes on to say that stress is cumulative. This means that if you do not deal with it as it arises, it adds up and therefore contributes to your states of dis-ease and disease.

How you deal with stress is by getting to the real causes of your stress and by deprogramming and reprogramming your conscious and subconscious minds to change what you are doing, thinking, feeling and mostly believing. Unless and until you do that, you will continue to repeat patterns of negative behaviour that seem to be beyond your control.

It has been stated and glossed over in the literature, that mental health issues arise in response to different stressors and circumstances and experiences over time.

This means that it is known and widely accepted that mental health issues arise because of how you respond to stress. So, logically, any program instigated into the work place needs to be one that revolves around how your employees are responding to stress.

What companies need to do

Companies need to consider the costs of mental health interventions, the cost benefits of treatments and preventive interventions and the need for a comprehensive change in stigmatisation.

Companies and society in general, need to be consistently and persistently informed about the true burden of mental disorders. They need to be informed of the individual burdens and the full range of potential economic costs, but also about the effectiveness, the feasibility and affordability of measures to reduce the overall burden.

If we continue to take these actions society will hopefully be more willing to come to accept that spending money for preventing and treating mental disorders is a sustainable investment.

The real question now is:

If we know that mental health issues arise in response to different stressors and circumstances and experiences that happen over time, how can we help leaders of corporations and employees change how they respond to stress and start taking this issue seriously?

How many studies need to be undertaken?

How much more needs to be spent on direct and indirect costs of mental health & stress within the workplace before something practical is done?

What more are you waiting for?

This is an answer:

Firstly, leaders of corporations need to understand where stress comes from initially and why it keeps repeating as though it’s out of your immediate control.

Secondly, they need to understand the general physiological responses that occur when a stressor trigger is activated.

Thirdly, they then need to understand that stress response is a habit and therefore new habits of more optimal responses can be instigated. And.

Fourthly, leaders then need to understand what is available and what can actually be done about this issue, because it can be resolved, with a little time and effort.

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