American citizens, especially adults, spend a large proportion of their overall lifetime in their respective workplaces. The fact that disability will feature in our lives is not debatable. Further, this compulsory element of our lives will eventually feature in our workplaces. Various disability cases are common features in the workplaces. Since disability is not inability, the importance of the disabled individuals in relation to the imputations they enable in the workplace cannot be overlooked. Mental disorder is an inclusive health element of general disability. This research is focused on the element of mental disorders and consequently the way it affects and impacts on the general undertakings in the workplace.
The aim of this research is to bring into focus the fact that the relevance of mental health especially with regard to the work place is vital. This research will also discuss in length the topic on mental health and consequently, and relevantly too, relate this concepts with the working milieu that most individuals find themselves in. The primary objective of this paper however is to bring out the importance of giving mental health the attention it requires. In this case, promotion of mental health and various ways of ensuring this is done in the right way is clearly discussed and illustrated. Further, the shortcomings of various traditional modes of dealing with the issue of mental health are discussed and better methods of dealing with the same issues provided as well.
Mental health illustrates either a level of emotional well-being or equally an absence of mental disorder. From different perceptions of the discipline of positive psychology the description of mental health may include a personal ability to generally enjoy life and effectively procure a real balance between various life activities and efforts to achieve psychological resilience. It is generally an expression that incorporates various elements of our emotions and signifies a successful and relevant adaptation to a range of human demands. However, the definition of mental health is not fixed to the above stating. The definition could be very different in relation to various situations and settings that are involved. This environmental and situational differences that may largely account for the different understanding and consequently definition of mental health are subjective assessments, differences in culture, and to some extent, various levels of professional theories. Mental health problems may include anxiety disorders, depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. The big burden of mental disorders on health and productivity throughout the United States and the world in general has long been profoundly underestimated. The importance of dealing with these issues has evaded most of the concerned individuals especially in the workplace. Further, the impact of mental health problems in the workplace has critical and real consequences for the persons whose lives are influenced either indirectly or directly.
Mental disorders constitute largely and majorly as one of the world’s most complex and social health problems. This problem affects more human lives and ideally wastes more human resources than any other disabling conditions in the world today. Clinical depression is constituted in the general term of mental disorders. It is ideally a factor that is of real importance concerning the subject matter of psychological aspects of mental health in the workplace. Clinical depression is majorly a factor illness that affects numerous individual adults in the United States. Depression is a workplace heath related issue that largely and significantly impacts the bottom line. The current statistical data in regard to this case, estimates that depression related cases recurrently costs the United States between $ 30 and $ 44 billion. This is proof that the importance of the subject cannot be overlooked.
Awareness of how the general mental well being of individuals can enhance or negatively impact on productivity is important. Employers are increasingly realizing that issues of mental health are complex. Further, this intricacy is amplified by the fact that they are linked with family and job stressors which are often precursors to mental health issues such as depression. Further, family and work accommodations are being made with the full realization and intention that they will produce favorable returns on investment because that is what highly motivates the companies to address these types of issues. (Gold & Shuman, 1999, p 45)
The meaning and psychological effects of work are intricate. Numerous individuals have an ambivalent relationship with their work due to the negative and positive aspects and psychological effects associated with any work situation. As a general principle, mental health practitioners have a consensus on the fact that individuals derive numerous benefits from engaging in productive work and that unemployment negatively affects mental health. However, work can also be a major source of stress, frustration, and even psychological injury and disability. Conversely, the factor of unemployment is typically detrimental to mental health issues, though the general effects of unemployment are not necessarily uniformly negative.
Various notions of mental health at work tend to focus on the person rather than the given larger organization. A comprehensive policy of issues of mental health at work includes, however, an assessment of the mental health of the organization itself. The end result is that there is a gain to both the concerned individuals and the organization at large. The gain to both individuals and the organization from the promotion of good mental health at work is reflected in increased presence, production and well being of the employees of the given organization. The constant and unremitting changing rate that affects all business today is increasingly and largely motivating employers to address the vital aspect of employees’ health. Moreover, it is taking its toll on employees, some of whom fail to cope with changes and need support to help them to evade the possibility of absenteeism and under performance in the workplace. The global marketplace is largely ensuring that organizations upgrade their efficiency and this, in turn, is encouraging the employers to seek ways of enhancing the performance of employees and to avoid losses associated with health and safety.
When psychiatric and mental disorders occur, they can impair one’s ability to perform certain job related tasks. Most individuals may become completely precluded from the vital aspect of competitive employment because of mental illness; however, some individuals may be able to work despite severe illness and at some times episodes of severe impairment. Examples of well known individuals with severe psychiatric illnesses who have continued working include John Nash, who suffered from schizophrenia (Hughes & Proctor, 1998). Nevertheless, despite such an inspirational occurrence, the effects of numerous mental conditions are severe in terms of disability as those of many chronic physical conditions.
In supervising the employees who may be having mental disability, there are several vital considerations that are put in place by the concerned authority and individual in question as well. An employee with a mental disability should be deemed and taken as a person firstly. The individuals with mental disabilities, just like, persons with physical disability, should not be defined by their disability. The mental disability is not who the person is but just a simple aspect that has been attached to them that they may not have been able to address in the workplace. Managers and human resource managers should address the issues of disability in the workplace with extreme caution. The law protects the disabled personnel. With this in mind, the employers or supervisors may find themselves in big problems regarding their undertakings and actions towards the disabled individuals in the workplace. Proper treatment should be accorded to the mentally disabled individuals in the workplace. Further, supervisors should be sensitive about any language that they use regarding disability problems (Kemp 1994, p 89). This action constitutes the general treatment of the individuals concerned. This action will go a long way in ensuring that the employers avoid the possibilities of having problems with the law and their workforce as well.
It is not a phenomenon for stress and stress management in the workplace to be treated with suspicion, apprehension and certain degree of cynicism. Constant media attention and well publicized stress litigation cases have helped to create a negative and unhelpful climate resulting in some reluctance to tackle a potentially costly workplace problem (Thomas & Hersen, 2002, p 33). Seemingly, stress has become an organizational whipping boy, blamed for quite a substantial amount of blame for our wrongs and in danger of becoming the back pain of this century.
Recent statistical figures provided by the Health and Safety Executive (2001) indicate that stress related sicknesses are responsible for the huge loss of working days each year. This statistics indicate that up to 6.5 million working days each year are lost in relation to the processes and activities on mental health. The true effect of mismanage stress and mental illness must be viewed in terms of costs associated with not up to standards performance and productivity, ill health, steadily increasing accidents at work, high labor turnover accidents in the course of duty, general unhappiness and job dissatisfaction in addition to highly increased insurance premiums and compensation stress litigation costs (Thomas & Hersen, 2002, p 33)
Recent research in Canada shows that individuals suffering from mental health disorders are fast growing. This is not to forget that the consequences and impacts of this trend are increasing and growing as well. These impacts largely affect directly the company or the organization in question or the respective employers of the mentally ill employees. Seventy-nine percent of interviewed individuals in Watson Wyatt’s survey showed that psychological conditions and settings were the leading cause of short term disability claims. Further, seventy-three percent confirmed that these conditions were also the leading cause of long term disability claims. Further, recent research and consequently report from Health Canada did show that mental heath disorders in the workplace cost nearly 14 percent of the net annual profits of Canadian companies with a price estimate of up to $ 16 billion annually. The World Health Organization estimates that by 2020, mental illness will be the second leading cause of disability worldwide, after heart diseases. With the incidences of mental health disorders on the rise, the impacts of the same are increasingly being felt in workplaces and even homes. Unfortunately, the real occurrence and cost involved on the issued of mental health disorders may even be higher to a large extent than the estimates above.
Apart from the direct costs of medical treatment, short term disability, long term disability and prescription drugs, there are a large spectrum of indirect costs associated with such disorders. These factors include the high costs of hiring and training of replacement workers or paying overtime to existing workers who fill in for an absent individual. These disruptions could also have a negative effect on the quality of the product or service the employer normally provides. This process may further translate negatively to customer dissatisfaction. Since the onset of health issues such as depression is often gradual and insidious, employees affected often remain at work while trying to cope with their symptoms (Stellman, 1998, p 10) This trend is a dangerous process in the given organization, considering that it has lead to large reductions in productivity and increased costs of employment due to what is referred to as presenteeism.
Despite trends and efforts made in comprehending and treating of mental health illnesses, there is still a significantly large social stigma that surrounds depression cases and other similar conditions. Mostly, the employees fear the dire consequences that accompany this relation. These consequences may either be perceived or actual by other colleagues in the given organization. Therefore, being identified as being a victim of mental disorder makes many individuals in the given profession shy away from the limelight due to the stigma accorded to the whole scenario. Therefore, their actions negatively inform their true cause of disability, in case of any, which is as a result hidden from their respective employers and therefore lacks the necessary and vital attention in being effectively and fully addressed by the concerned authority. In a recent research done by the Quebec Mental illness Foundation, Canada, up to 40 percent of the interviewed individuals indicated that they would not tell their employer if they were victims of depression or other mental health related illness. Therefore, it is true that the employers may not be currently getting an accurate and real picture of the effects of mental health disorders on their employees, and most importantly on their bottom line.
Mental health problems can also put employees of a given organization at a greater risk for other sicknesses, or further increase the gravity and duration of reoccurrence of former chronic illnesses. Further, the emotional and social financial burden and costs of mental health related disorder place a considerable amount of stress on ill employees, their co workers, their families and the larger community (Ambrosino, Heffernan, Shuttlesworth, 2007, p 201)
Creation of a balanced team of individuals as workers in a given organization is a vital step that most employers recognize. Therefore, with this concept in mind, numerous employers are ensuring that they do have a broad base of employees regardless of their health, including mental, situations. This trend is also in line with the requisites of the Equal Employment Opportunity Act. Therefore, there is a trend that the employers’ are addressing the problem of their employees’ health issues rather than simply terminating their contracts.
The issue of mental health in the work place is clearly an important aspect of organizational success. The relevance of this subject cannot therefore be simply overlooked. With this in mind therefore, employers should endeavor in ensuring they act well in line with the aim of achieving the best end result in relation to this issue. Employers should further translate their concern about he costs involved with mental health disorders into effective and informed action in order to appropriately address the impact on their organizations. It is vital to note that including mental health in the business model is vital to a healthy workplace. Poor mental health not only hurts the person involved but also reduces to a large extent the corporate profits.
Employers should effectively ensure that they conduct a review of short term disability and long term disability claims. This in effect will end up revealing a given organization’s mental health experiences and claim. This claims me sometimes, or even often, be more than expected. Further, the results achieved can be used in providing a benchmark that can be effectively used to design and evaluate the viability of new policies and procedures.
Mental health disorders do not fit the typical model of disability which numerous employers still view in terms of a physical retardation. Accordingly, the basic requirements of the employees returning to work after a mental health related issue of absence may be different from those of an employee returning back after head leg surgery. Therefore, return to work arrangements that are currently in place should be revised and reviewed as needed in addressing this situations (Austin 2010, p 61)
Employers who do not have employee assistance programs should seriously consider the importance of implementing such programs to address mental health and other issues. Even with cases of organizations that have employee assistance program, the reviewing of this document is important in ensuring that mental health related issues are clearly and properly addressed.
While the effect of endorsing the above steps will vary depending on the given organization, the end result is that benefit for both the employers and the employees is achieved. The secret lies in moving beyond actively managing disability to actively promoting various aspects of health and providing the necessary support. Commitment of the employer is very important in relation to the created programs. Even the best designed programs and measures may not be successfully put in place if the employer concerned is not committed to addressing the impact of mental health disorders on their respective workplaces on an ongoing basis.
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