Breaking Down Workplace Barriers to Seeking Mental Health Treatment

Friday, February 5th, 2010
This post was written by Melanie Matthews

More than 40 percent of employees identified their employers as supportive or extremely supportive in seeking care for health issues, according to a survey by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). The national survey also showed that barriers still exist for those employees who said their workplace is unsupportive of employees seeking treatment, especially for mental health treatment. Loss of status at work and concerns about confidentiality were identified more often as barriers to seeking treatment for mental health issues than for other illnesses.

Of these employees, 76 percent thought their status would be impacted for seeking treatment for drug addiction, 73 percent for alcoholism, and 62 percent for depression compared to 55 percent and 54 percent who indicated status as a barrier for diabetes and heart disease treatment.

The APA’s Partnership for Workplace Mental Health offers the following tips for employers who wish to create an environment that encourages employees taking care of their physical and mental health:

1) Lead by example. Supervisors and managers play a crucial role in creating a healthy environment by taking care of themselves. Set the tone and take care of your own health.

2) Promote prevention, early intervention, and wellness programs. Encourage regular preventive health screenings, conduct health fairs, provide healthy meals and snacks at meetings, encourage exercise, and promote work/life balance.

3) Discourage people from working while ill. Employees that need to take off time due to an illness should know that their employer wants them back—safely, healthy, and productive.

4) Promote the investment you are already making. Remind employees of the health benefits and programs available to them. Make sure employees know how to access care, including programs like Employee Assistance Programs.

5) Reassure employees about confidentiality—this is especially important for mental health treatment. Remind employees about the ways that their privacy is protected when they utilize services, including Employee Assistance Programs.

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