Recent studies have shown that mental health problems are increasingly responsible for the majority of leaves taken by employees. It is now being acknowledged that mental disorders can adversely affect the ability to work more than any other illness. It was been reported that most people with psychiatric problems or those undergoing treatment for illnesses such as depression are at a greater likelihood of being unemployed in menial jobs. The inequity is higher among those living with serious and persistent psychiatric disabilities including schizophrenia, thus, resulting in them being heavily dependent on social security schemes.
Though not all organizations or bosses are tolerant or accepting of such problems, things could be slowly changing as became evident from a recent incident. This came to light when an employee tweeted about a mail she received from her boss that has kept the internet busy since it went viral across all social media platforms.
A mail informing the team of leave taken by a web developer identified as Madalyn Parker to treat her mental health issues received the perfect, albeit, unexpected reply from the organization’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO). It not only showed his humaneness but also the increased cognizance of mental illnesses being taken by employers in certain organizations.
The perfect reply
Parker had written in her email, to her colleagues, that she was taking time off to take care of her mental health and would join when she is “back to 100%.” She had taken leave to deal with her depressive disorder and anxiety because of which she was unable to attend office for a few days to be able to focus on her emotional problems and necessary treatment.Replying to her mail, her CEO, Ben Congleton wrote, “I use it as a reminder of the importance of using sick days for mental health,” hinting at how her honest email was quintessential to help get rid of prejudice people held against those with such disorders.
The mail prompted thousands of tweets and attracted the attention of millions of people around the world. The responses underscored the prevalence of mental problems among the American population and the need to fight stigma against mental illness. While federal agency figures indicate that roughly one among four people are detected with some kind of emotional illness; the fear of discrimination and backlash due to the stigma keeps them from coming out in the open and sharing their problems or seeking treatment.
Workplaces need a shift in attitude
Despite the fact that mental diseases are common across the world, experts point out that in reality, not everyone is this open, especially at workplaces. Certain past instances like this one have shown that some bosses are more approachable and generous than others. Congleton’s reply exhibited his readiness to be more conscious of his employee’s needs while serving as a model for her colleagues to show the same kind of sensitivity to her problems.
Reiterating the significance of the mail, Mary Killeen, a senior research associate at the Syracuse University’s Burton Blatt Institute said, “Many people wish they lived in the kind of world that these emails represent. People wish they could be open with their supervisor and colleagues about occasionally needing time off, not because they are physically ill, but because they are dealing with a personal issue or an emotional state that makes it impossible, temporarily, to do their work.”
The mail also serves as a reminder for people affected by such illnesses that mental disorders sometimes demand essential time-offs for their treatment and recovery. However, most willfully choose to ignore the signs as they either misconstrue their emotional problems or believe them to be untreatable or are too hesitant to take time off or are in a situation where they are unable to speak openly about their needs. Alternatively, the increasing popularity of the story indicates the increasing awareness among American population about the pervasiveness of psychiatric problems and the need to address it even at the professional level.
Ubiquity of mental illnesses, a concern for Americans
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), statistics reveal how roughly 43.8 million adult Americans experience mental illness during any given year. In most cases, it is not possible for family members alone to assess the extent and gravity of the illnesses, making the patient more prone to grievous maladies for which no medical care may be possible or accessible. That is why it is important to seek professional help in time.
In addition, the staggering figures by NAMI delineating the frequency and gravity of mental illnesses affecting people across the nation underscore the fact that it is important for workplaces in the U.S. to be aware of and be sensitive to the problems faced by employees living with mental illnesses. It is crucial that they have proper policies in place and assist such individuals in seeking help so that there is no loss of productivity and people are able to manifest their highest potential rather than make their condition worse by having to hide it.
Certain untreated mental problems can aggravate and lead to suicidal ideation. According to the numbers published by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (mail), an American succumbs to self-inflicted injury every 12.3 minutes. These figures imply that roughly 43,000 Americans commit suicide each year.
As the country’s health continues to be dented with increased diagnoses of problems pertaining to the mind or the brain, experts stress the need to raise the level of education and awareness about such problems and the treatment available.
Fighting mental illnesses with increased awareness
Stigma and discrimination continue to veil the pain associated with poor mental health. Despite having medical care plans and insurance coverage in place for the same, the frequency and magnitude of suffering and agony in terms of disabilities faced and expenses incurred in those affected are increasing every day.
Though people are mindful of the enormous burden that mental health poses on the lives of Americans, irrespective of their age, race or financial condition, experts envisage that the solution to curtailing the spiraling rate of mental illnesses lies in increased awareness. This is possible through greater investment in widening the scope of education about mental issues. Making use of existing knowledge and readily applying the same to everyday situations will boost the morale of those seeking treatment and help them lead productive lives.
The fact that the number of mental rehab centers in the U.S. does not commensurate with the number of people diagnosed calls for added investment in increasing accessibility to more treatment options. As this involves a higher proportion of human and financial resources, federal agencies are constantly lobbying with government authorities to increase the allocation of funds to such causes so that adequate infrastructure can be developed to provide greater services to those keen to avail mental health services.
This challenge faced by the country can be solved only through integrated efforts by all federal agencies using all resources available. In addition, people must change their mindset towards such problems and ensure that those with a mental disorder are not subjected to human rights violation or any other form of discrimination.
Only when people start to change the way they think and bring forth the kind of compassion and openness showed by Ben Congleton can real change begin to take place in the society.