To say there is stigma in the workplace around mental health disorders may be putting it mildly. Surveys of U.S. employers show half are reluctant to hire someone with a current or past history of psychiatric history, including treatment for depression. Having a mental health diagnosis become known in the workplace often severely limits career advancement. As a result, employees often are reluctant to seek behavioral health treatment and employers frequently do not offer adequate resources for mental health care.
Johns Manville, a Berkshire Hathaway Company, is eager to be a leader in changing this dynamic, with personal commitment from C-level executives. Staff from the National Mental health Innovation Center (NMHIC) are developing a proposal to implement a thorough baseline evaluation of the company’s practices and develop a best practice whole-health model with engagement at multiple levels of the company.
While this project is early in its development, it is easy to imagine a long-term return on investment that includes meaningful changes in corporate culture, propelling Johns Manville to be a business leader in behavioral health care solutions.
The University of Colorado also is diving deep to assess its role in the mental wellness of its workforce. With roughly 20,000 employees, plus another 10,000 student employees, spread over four campuses, CU is one of the largest employers in the state. And with professions ranging from accounting to astronauts, curators to coaches and groundskeepers, professors, doctors and more, promoting wellness is a big challenge.
NMHIC staff is providing resources for the CU Vice President of Wellness who has responsibility to compile components of the best practices for workplace wellness initiatives that could make CU a national model. We are screening apps, benchmarking the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health System and reviewing best practice literature.
Ultimately, we believe that employers are a potentially powerful player in the world of mental health care with the ability to affect positive change in access to care and employee benefits, and a catalyst for reducing or eliminating stigma around these health issues.