Last week, Walgreens Boots Alliance announced that it will expand its mental health services beyond simply filling prescriptions. Now, it will offer essential tools like screening and treatment, including teletherapy services. This is definitely something to cheer about during Mental Health Month—or in any month, really. A giant like Walgreens can give a huge boost to mental health awareness.
Why is awareness so crucial? Because one in five Americans currently suffer from mental health conditions, more than those suffering from medical conditions like diabetes and heart disease. In 2013, the United States spent more on mental health care than it did on any other category of medical care, according to a study published last week in Health Affairs.
This is more than just a goodwill play on Walgreen’s part: Today, patient adherence to prescriptions is worse for mental health conditions than for physical illnesses. Screening, awareness, and treatment will be good for their business.
But wait! It’s good news for everyone’s business. And as leaders, advocating for mental health is as important as any wellness or health benefit initiative. We absolutely must take mental health out of the closet. Serious mental health issues require serious care. Our colleagues must be encouraged through education and support to get help when they need it. If you aren’t convinced, read on:
1. Mental health issues often go unaddressed until it’s too late. The Association for Psychological Science reports that only 59% of people with mental illness—depression, anxiety, et cetera—receive treatment.
2. Stigma around mental health treatment, while lessening, still exists. When people don’t feel safe, they don’t take action.
3. Mental health is still treated as a taboo subject. If you don’t agree, just ask yourself: When’s the last time one of your colleagues went on disability for depression? Did you know about it? Doubtful.
4. Recently published, longitudinal studies show that work stress—in the form of psychological demands—is predictive of new cases of depression and general anxiety disorder.
5. Those in high-stress environments are twice as likely to develop new mental health problems as those in lower-stress environments.
No, it’s not likely that every person in need of help will also enroll in therapy. Walgreens, for example, has set a goal of screening three million people by 2017. But leaders can take action in other supportive ways: Reviews of effective ways to mitigate the stress reaction suggest that cognitive behavioral therapy—learning to recognize triggers and respond differently—has the best effects. Resilience training, via digital delivery, is an essential, accessible first start and a promising initial line of defense in mitigating or preventing mental health issues before they take root.
Resilience—the ability to cope and thrive in stressful situations—is associated with better attendance and job satisfaction. It’s also been shown to improve performance and reduce turnover. Resilient workers report less stress in their lives, are four times more likely to be satisfied on the job, and they’re 50% less likely to miss work in the first place.
Clearly, promoting mental health in the workplace needs to be part of any company’s wellness initiatives, and resilience is a key way to integrate good mental health with productivity. In an era when mental health awareness is slowly but surely creeping out of the closet, we owe it to our employees, to our businesses, and to ourselves to lead the way.