Mental Health Issues Plague the Workplace

Chriss Swaney

Sarasota, FL ( – Mental health disorders are among the most burdensome health concerns for employers in the United States, according to reports by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The economic impact of mental health issues in the workplace exceeds $200 million yearly.

Experts like Stephen H. Hinshaw, a professor of psychology at the University of California-Berkeley, caution employees to know their company’s HR system and reputation. “Realize that mental illness is not rare and that with evidence-based treatment, most people can and do recover… and can become the firm’s best workers.”

Nearly 1 in 5 U.S. adults aged 18 or older (18.3 percent or 44.7 million) reported some kind of mental illness in 2016, according to the latest figures available. In addition, the CDC reports that 71 percent of adults reported at least one symptom of stress, such as a headache or feeling overwhelmed or anxious at work.

Hinshaw also said that engaging employers and employees behaviorally without resorting to character assassination remains a solid way to address mental health issues on the job.

Melanie Kautzman-East, an assistant professor of psychology and clinical coordinator of professional counseling at Carlow University, said poor mental health and stress can negatively affect employee job performance and productivity and engagement with one’s work.


Experts say some of the more obvious signs of mental illness on the job include a shortened attention span where an employee may have trouble focusing on one task for an extended period of time. Other issues include an inability to maintain stamina; not having the energy to work a full day or combating drowsiness due to medications and the inability to manage multiple assignments and meet deadlines.

“But workplace health promotion programs have proven to be successful, especially when they combine mental and physical health interventions,” said Kautzman-East.

Deborah Good, a clinical assistant professor of business administration at the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz Business School said employers need to be more observant of employees. “Stress becomes a contributing factor in mental health issues as more and more employees are working longer hours as companies combine jobs and duties instead of hiring more workers to complete tasks,” said Good.

Another challenge for workplace mental illness issues is the scarcity of professional resources.

The Center for Workplace Mental Health at the American Psychiatric Association reports that 77 percent of counties in the U.S. don’t have psychiatrists. Some of the reasons for the shortages include low reimbursement rates, burnout and administrative burdens. And according to a survey by Mercer, about 75percent of employers with workforces of 5,000 people or more say access to behavioral health care is a concern in some or all locations. Fifty percent of all employers say they have enhanced their employee assistance programs, while just over one-third have implemented a tele-therapy program.

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