Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Canada: Corporate execs unaware of employees mental health needs

From Canwest News Service July 15:

OTTAWA - Approximately 35 million workdays are lost every year in Canada due to mental illness, although senior executives have little awareness of the problem, according to a study released Tuesday.

The survey of more than 450 Canadian organizations conducted by human-resources consultancy Mercer in conjunction with The Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health (CAMIMH) said low productivity related to mental illness adds significant cost to employers.

"It's too expensive not to do something," said Anne Nicoll of Mercer. "It actually is costing them more now than what it would if they put in a plan to deal with it."

Survey respondents indicated that mental-health issues are a growing concern for human-resources professionals. Nearly 80 per cent reported that mental-health issues have increased in importance compared with three to five years ago.

Yet in contrast, only 13 per cent of survey respondents said senior executives had a strong awareness of the impact of mental health on the organization.

"We are trying to raise awareness in the executive suite that mental illnesses are costing their companies an awful lot of money" said Philip Upshall of CAMIMH.

"The high ranking that mental health has on the HR priorities list combined with the lack of awareness at the top of the organization is cause for concern," said Nicoll.

But while big corporations are willing to put their logos alongside cancer and heart health-awareness campaigns, it is often much more challenging to achieve corporate backing for mental-health issues, such as depression, anxiety and schizophrenia.

"It boils down to society stigma," said Upshall. "We still are unable as a society to talk about them even although they are becoming the single most common costly illness that our health-care system faces."