Is Mental Health Care Still A Stigma in Workplace? Should it Be?



Mental Health issues on the part of workers impact performance and productivity. No surprise there? But, what a can of worms this can be.

Work puts stress on brain and brawn. Sometimes, stresses surface as anger or illness. Business and industry have dealt with these outcomes with varying degrees of success for centuries. But, diagnosed and un-diagnosed mental health issues of the "bigger" sort seem more pronounced in the workplace these days. Partly this comes from information and education and partly a new honesty about issues and willingness to bring them to the office counselor for discussion. 

The accommodation ethos required by the American With Disabilities Act allows and encourages those troubled with mental health issues to identify and record their diagnosis. In doing so, workers discuss problems more frequently - if not more freely. Even when reluctant, their symptomatic behavior may be obvious and warrant a follow-up by a qualified Human Resources professional. 

An online master degree in psychology prepares any willing counselor to advise and direct employees on their healthcare options and their rights to ADA leave. Progressive HR professionals have a duty to maximize employee performance while respecting personal needs.

It does not take an online master degree in psychology for the average person to notice symptoms. For example:

  • Chronic absenteeism was once considered a discipline issue; now, it is known as a sign of a dependency issue, though it could be other things as well.
  • Anger in the workplace was seen as a mere personality trait; now, it is seen as a rage problem that needs prompt and continuing attention.
  • Isolation in a team environment may be evidence of a depressed person needing care.

Still, new problems raise new challenges for business:

  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD) is a painful problem for too many returning military members and their families – though certainly not all. It can also happen to civilians in certain very traumatic situations. Recognized by the ADA as requiring accommodation, its symptoms are varied, unpredictable, and sometimes un-obvious. It is particularly distressing to anyone who works with the “patient” because of its erratic appearance and its sad pathology. Everyone wants to help but few know how.
  • Neurological problems, such as narcolepsy or Tourette Syndrome, are often perceived as mental. The lack of education leads co-workers and supervisors to misread and discipline the behavior negatively.
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders isolate employees with social interaction and language difficulties. Under the law, such conditions cannot exclude or preclude employment. However, they can compound into deeper co-morbid disorders, such as epilepsy. Epilepsy comes at many levels, and usually starts out unrelated to many mental issues.
  • Schizophrenia, psychosis, bi-polar disorders, and the like respond well to modern medications. They give more of those afflicted higher functioning and the ability to work. If the worker/patient informs the employer, the employer must comply, within reason.

If management and Human Resources know of any problem, management must do their best to protect the employee from any stigma generated by fellow employees. If the employee does not disclose his/her condition, the business has no specific obligation other than to extend fairness and understanding.

Psychology Today predicts a "tsunami" in the workplace from unresolved and proliferating mental health issues. But, there is no real evidence for this. Problem behaviors are not new to the workplace. They have new names and clearer diagnosis. New social awareness has designed new and productive responses. Strangely enough, quality improvement programs - along with the ADA - have helped manage these issues more positively, recognizing that working with problems is more productive than fighting them.

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