Look around your workplace and consider that, on average, 1 in 5 of your co-workers currently lives with a mental health condition.
Closer to home, that same 20% also applies to your friends, family members, neighbors and our population as a whole. What's more, studies show at least half of these individuals, if not more, are currently not seeking treatment and may never get needed care.
The prevalence of conditions like depression, anxiety, ADHD, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, combined with significant challenges with access to treatment and care, has created what many consider to be a complex and full-blown health crisis in America today. And it's one we're bringing greater awareness to globally on Oct. 10 for World Mental Health Day.
Despite the challenges, the nation is making progress with solutions, and one place where we can truly make an impact is the workplace. Employers have some of the best opportunities to provide much-needed services and benefits in the areas of mental and behavioral health for employees and their families.
In the U.S., mental health and substance use issues cost businesses $80 billion to $100 billion each year. Depression and anxiety alone cost the global economy an estimated $1 trillion annually in lost productivity, according to the World Health Organization.
While any impact to a company's bottom line can't be ignored, it's critical to make treating mental illness a top priority and do everything we can as employers to help ensure the best possible health, well-being and outcomes for each and every employee. After all, they are and always will be an organization's greatest asset.
It's against this backdrop that Walgreens and the National Council for Behavioral Health in May announced a unique collaboration to provide Mental Health First Aid training for employees within Walgreens' human resources department. The training teaches mental health literacy, understanding risk factors and warning signs for mental health and addiction concerns and strategies for how to help someone in both crisis and other situations.
As a national pharmacy chain and employer of 240,000 people in the U.S., it furthers the company's growing commitment to workplace mental health and builds upon a number of other services and resources the company offers employees and their families through its employee assistance program.
Mental Health First Aid is another investment in an area of critical need at a time when many organizations are focused on simply cutting healthcare costs. If more employers get on board with spending more on mental and behavioral health services, it can only help.
The reality is that improving access to care and reducing stigma can help lower overall costs for employers and employees by virtue of better health outcomes in the long run. It can also lead to a happier, more engaged and more productive workforce, and what employer wouldn't want that?
When we consider how much of our lifetimes are spent at work, it's no surprise that the workplace can have a significant impact on our psychological well-being, positively or negatively. After all, it's estimated that the average U.S. adult will spend about one-third of their lifetime at work.
Of course there are significant factors outside of the workplace that can impact one's mental health, such as relationships, illness, finances, children and myriad other external influences. Regardless of where the various stressors and sources may lie, the call for help needs to start with employers, to provide the programs, services, education and training necessary to demonstrate that employees being their single greatest asset isn't just a cliché.