WSJ Looks at Mental Health in the Workplace
The Wall Street Journal today examines the issue of mental illness in the workplace, reporting that although most employers are unaware of the true costs of mental illness, the "annual toll" of depression alone is "about $70 billion in medical expenditures, lost productivity and other costs." According to Paul Greenberg, a health care economist at the Massachusetts-based consulting firm Analysis Group/Economics, the costs of mental illnesses are difficult to quantify because many factors, such as lower productivity, "aren't readily apparent," and because workers, who often fear being stigmatized, can more easily mask their mental illnesses than physical ones. A survey conducted last year found that 70% of employers are concerned about rising psychiatric claims, as U.S. antidepressant sales have risen more than 800% to $10.2 billion since 1990, and the cost of hospital stays and psychiatric visits has also increased (Tanouye, Wall Street Journal, 6/13).
A second article reports that a "confluence of legal, medical and social changes" is making it "possible for more people with serious mental illnesses to enter the workplace." New antipsychotic medications allow workers with disorders such as schizophrenia to work without side effects associated with older medicines. In addition, the Americans with Disabilities Act prevents employers from asking job applicants about potential mental illnesses. It also allows those with illnesses to keep them undisclosed; those who do choose to reveal their psychiatric disability are protected against discrimination from employers, who must also provide "reasonable accommodations" for such employees (Tanouye, Wall Street Journal, 6/13).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.