Helping workers with theirmental health can ultimately help an employer's bottom line, aseffective treatments can lower total medical costs, increaseproductivity and reduce absenteeism. (Photo: Shutterstock)

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Employers should be helping their workers combat mental illness and other mental healthissues—for both the workers' sake and for the sake of theirorganizations, according to the report, “Mental Health- A Workforce Crisis,”commissioned by the CEO Roundtable of the American HeartAssociation.

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“Investing in the prevention and treatment of mental healthdisorders can provide employers with longer-term cost benefits, aswell as improved health outcomes,” the report's authors write. “Thedata shows that overall the cost of doing nothing is higher thaninvesting in evidence-based prevention and treatmentstrategies.”

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Related: Top 10 mental health conditions employerscover

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The 40-member CEO Roundtable, led by Johnson & Johnsonchairman and CEO Alex Gorsky and Bank of America Corp. chairman andCEO Brian Moynihan, believe that it is the duty of employers toprovide comprehensive mental health prevention and treatmentprograms because, first of all, adults spend most of their wakinghours at work and that's where a good deal of their stress comes from.

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Moreover, helping workers can ultimately help an employer'sbottom line, as effective treatments can lower total medical costs,increase productivity, reduce absenteeism and decrease disabilitycosts, according to the report. On the other hand, doing nothingcan exacerbate everyone's costs.

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Indeed, 68 percent – or $1.7 trillion — of the total $2.5trillion global cost of mental disorders is due to lostproductivity from absenteeism and presenteeism. Between 2011 and2030, the cumulative cost related to mental health is predicted tobe $16.3 trillion, higher than the estimated cost forcardiovascular disease ($15.6 trillion) and cancer ($8.3trillion).

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To confront the challenges of mental illness and other mentalhealth issues in the workplace, the AHA CEO Roundtable isadvocating that employers implement the following strategies(developed by an expert panel convened by the AHA's Center forWorkplace Health Research):

  • Visibly position leaders to be proactive champions of a diverseand inclusive culture that supports a mental health-friendlyworkplace
  • Develop and implement a Mental Health Plan that is easy for allemployees to access and understand
  • Communicate clearly and often to employees about theorganization's mental health policies, medical benefits, programs,education resources and training opportunities
  • Offer a comprehensive package of employee-centered medicalbenefits and programs
  • Involve employees in all aspects of mental health-relatedworkplace decision-making
  • Leverage community partnerships to promote the internal andexternal objectives of the Mental Health Plan
  • Identify evidence-based opportunities to continually improvethe mental health and well-being of employees

It all starts at the top, members of the CEO Roundtableassert.

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“As CEOs, we must lead by example and engage other businessleaders in redefining workplace inclusiveness and powering a mentalhealth movement,” they write.

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Katie Kuehner-Hebert

Katie Kuehner-Hebert is a freelance writer based in Running Springs, Calif. She has more than three decades of journalism experience, with particular expertise in employee benefits and other human resource topics.