Employers cannot afford to pretend that mental health issues do not require as much or more support than physical ailments . While the impact of mental health issues on employee absenteeism and employer costs are significantly on the rise, employers still do not see that the benefit of providing adequate support to address mental health issues in the workplace far outweigh the cost of doing nothing.
As prevalent as mental health issues are in the workplace, and the crippling effect they can have on productivity, they are often not viewed with the same amount of credibility as physical ailments. Perhaps this is due to the lack of visible symptoms of mental health issues, or because mental health issues vary greatly from person-to-person, or the belief that with mental health, all the employee has to do is “get over it and get back to work”. This is never more apparent than with the person suffering from depression. Whatever the reasons, there is great disparity between the way physical health is perceived and treated at the workplace, versus mental health.
Additionally, there seems to be a notable lack of consistency for accommodating employees upon returning to work after a leave of absence for mental health issues. Where companies might discuss the option of a 3-day week for someone with a challenging physical ailment, the same accommodations may not be made for those returning from absence due to mental health issues, where the issues should have been “cleared up” in the time off.
I’ve chosen to feature the graphic below in my blog this week to illustrate the lack of appreciation and empathy for mental health issues when compared to physical injuries. The graphic demonstrates how ludicrous it would be to expect those with physical ailments to “try harder”, “make an effort” or “get over it”, yet, this is what society comes to expect of those with mental health issues, due to of a lack of understanding or any visible evidence of hardship. What do you think of the suggestions made in the graphic?
It will take many conversations and a drastic reframing of mental health to increase the support needed in the workplace for Canadians who suffer from poor mental health. So, let’s start talking about it – now! I look forward to your comments below.