Monday, November 18, 2013

Mental Health at Work: We Can't Afford to Overlook the Problem

Were you aware that over 20 per cent of Canadians suffer from a mental illness during their lifetime? Well, the latest statistics on mental health and addiction (CAMH, 2012) reconfirm this result.

In addition, only 30 per cent of those who suffer from mental illness get the care they need. And less than 50 per cent of Canadians say they are ready to talk to family/friends or to seek professional help, despite the demonstrated success of various existing psychological and pharmacological treatments.

Today, maintaining a good work-life balance is becoming increasingly difficult for most of us. According to several surveys, about 50 per cent of Canadians are struggling to meet their work, personal and family obligations (Health Canada, 2008). And these problems seem to get worse within a fragile economy in which most organizations try to do more with fewer human and financial resources.

Given the significant number of people affected by mental illness, it's not surprising that the financial costs of mental health on society are enormous, and that mental illness is one of the leading causes of work-related disability (70 per cent are "total disability" costs) and of premature death. Stress alone is a major threat at work, and on productivity, and results in $14 billion per year in mental health costs in Canada. All together the costs related to health care and lost productivity at work add up to $51 billion/year (Health Statistics Canada, 2008).

Increasingly, psychological distress and its impacts are becoming concerns in today's work world, in addition to being key elements in any analyses of employment outcomes and productivity.

There is a great deal of scientific research pointing to a close link between mental health in the workplace ( e.g. different organizational structures, task performance and control, access to and management of available resources, and personal and social support at work) (Bourgeois et al., 2006; Dejours, 2004 and 2006; Karasek, 1990; Follman and Lazarus, 1984; Molinier, 2006; Siegrist, 1990).

This underlines the importance of being concerned about mental health at work and of seriously addressing the repercussions of risks to organizational and individual health, the work environment, and the indicators of workplace mental health (such as depression and stress costs, the effects of presenteeism and absenteeism, as well as the heavy hidden costs of production/service quality and quantity - Davezies, 2006). In this regard, figures from Health Canada and other research organizations speak volumes (Health Canada, 2002 and 2008, Statistics Canada, 2004 and 2011, Canadian Medical Association, 2008; Institute of Health Economics, 2008; Mental Health Commission of Canada, 2009).

And of course there are the significant impact on employees and managers which lead to suicidal situations and malaise (Brown, 2005; INRS, 2007, Robert and Grosjean, 2006). The confidence and motivation which are essential to the proper functioning of any organization and the achievement of its objectives are also affected.

According to our findings, mental health at work is experienced as both a cause and a consequence of a demoralized environment (i.e. socio-economic, relational and/or organizational). The impact is seen in several negative factors including burnout, mood disorders (anxiety), harassment, and violence. The outcomes are then usually in the form of severe mental illness, depression, maladjusted behaviour, pathological stress related to an individual's failure to cope, lethargy, job drain, and abandoning responsibilities (in the face of work demands and workload). Again, these are made much worse by deteriorating socio-economic and environmental conditions.

For this reason, the organizational environment, as a whole, requires a comprehensive and integrative approach to address this condition or malaise (Nasse and Legeron, 2008). The psychological distress and growing anxiety will not only require treatment of the most acute symptoms in individuals, but should also focus more on prevention, education and professional support (through analyses, and individual and organizational interventions).

These efforts should be aimed at achieving better individual and organizational health. And they can be done in different ways (e.g. by implementing practical and effective measures such as clarifying roles and responsibilities, through organizational restructuring, by establishing goals that promote individual and organizational health, and by providing training and coaching to employees/managers).

Certainly, Y2CP's experience has shown that it's only when such tools are used, and when business philosophy recognizes that organizational success is closely related to the well-being of employees/managers ("Good Health = Good Business"), that the costs associated with mental illness in the workplace can be reduced and lead to greater productivity and/or profitability in the long term.

To meet the growing mental health problems at work, Y2 Consulting Psychologists Inc. has developed a new mental health at work section of its operations, in addition to various analysis methodologies and interventions to improve individual and organizational health. We offer a number of effective, innovative, affordable and relevant solutions for small, medium and large private and public organizations.

For more information please contact one of our experts in mental health at work.

Dr Xavier Émile Kauffmann, Ph.D.
Dr Yaniv M Benzimra, Ph.D.
Y2 Consulting Psychologists

If you have any questions and/or comments, don't hesitate. Thank you!

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