4 ways to change how you manage mental illness disability

The reality of pay cuts. Rumors of reduced hours. Concerns about job stability. Chances are, your employees may be dealing with a serious side effect of today’s economy — an increase in mental illness disability, which leads to stress-related productivity loss. During the stress of an economic downturn, you can help your employees with practical solutions that will remove barriers to productivity and help improve your bottom line.

Mental disorders are the leading cause of disability in the United States and Canada for people ages 15 to 44.[1] Every year, more than a quarter of the U.S. population will be diagnosed with a mental disorder, yet only about one-third of those will receive treatment.[2]

Financial concerns and stress caused by the current economic climate can increase the risk of compulsive behaviors such as overeating, substance abuse and smoking.[3]

The greatest barrier preventing people from accessing mental health care is stigma. Few employers engage in practices that specifically target employees’ psychological health.

While each workplace is unique, many can benefit from the following proactive solutions that change the way employers manage mental illness disability:

  1. Create a health- and productivity-focused culture.
  2. Partner with vendors and experts.
  3. Maximize employee assistance program utilization.
  4. Build (or enhance) a disability management program that assists employees in returning to or staying at work.

Be proactive in developing your own approach to managing mental health disability. Reimagine your workplace and begin to make mental health a prominent initiative by educating employees. Align your benefit plan’s mental health coverage with wellness initiatives. Include stress management, substance abuse counseling and support groups. Remember, even small changes can yield positive effects with immediate and measurable results.


[1] National Institute of Mental Health http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/the-numbers-count-mental-disorders-in-america/index.shtml

[2] National Institute of Mental Health, February 2009. American Institute of Stress.

[3] Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, April 2009.

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