by Phil Yacuboski
Mental health issues are some of the most common workplace concerns in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Nearly 1 in 5 adults reported some sort of mental health issue, according to CDC statistics compiled in 2016 with 71% who reported a headache over stress or anxiety.
“We have a tremendous focus on helping the individual with their emotional health and well-being,” said Heidi Remak, director of behavioral health, Prudential Financial. “We believe in addressing the whole person, and to address work stress in and of itself would not be as thorough as we would want to be able to for the health and well-being of our employees. If we have a healthy employee, a healthy employee provides us a healthy work environment and a healthy work environment offers us a healthy and engaged enterprise.”
Remak oversees the program at Prudential’s Scranton offices, where more than 700 people are employed to support Prudential’s retirement business operation. A counselor is on-site at the Scranton office once every other week. If the counselor is not there on the day when he or she is needed by an employee, Remak said employees can call her directly to coordinate speaking with a counselor over the phone. Prudential also has an employee assistance program.
“She does address workplace stress,” said Remak, “but moreover she also focuses on any type of emotional or psychological concerns as well as family or relationship issues as well. Those are the top concerns.”
Remak said because the program improves the overall health of a person, it drives down cost and expands productivity.
“It reduces presenteeism, it reduces time off,” she said.
The CDC estimates it costs two to three times more to treat behavioral and mental health issues that it does a co-occuring illness. They report by treating both simultaneously, it could save the U.S. healthcare system billions of dollars per year. The study found that even after taking into account smoking and obesity, depression had the third highest cost to treat after the initial diagnosis.
A mental health issue can also affect relationships between co-workers in addition to productivity, according to the CDC.
To help break the stigma against mental illness in the workplace, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill launched ‘CEOs Against Stigma’ and gathered more than 150 executives from all over Pennsylvania to address the issue.
“We want to raise awareness of the impact that this has in the workplace and help eliminate the stigma,” said Christine Michaels, CEO of NAMI Keystone Pennsylvania. “The CEOs provide leadership of an organization and if they lead the fight against stigma in their places of employment, then the employees would embrace the idea of a stigma-free workplace.”
She said the goal is to understand the issue, educate themselves and encourage others to talk about the issues they may be having and to get help.
“Businesses are finding out that it’s good business to be concerned about these issues,” she said. “They want to be concerned with not only their physical wellness but their mental wellness as well.”
“We don’t see our employees as workers, we see our employees as human beings,” said Remak.