Mental health, a subject that is still too little discussed in business

Mental health, a subject that is still too little discussed in business

Anxiety, sleep disorders, depression… Mental disorders have been on the rise in recent years, lifting the veil on a subject that has long remained taboo. But this theme remains too little addressed in business, as a new American survey reveals.

Only 58% of employees surveyed in the latest National Alliance on Mental Illness* study say they are comfortable talking about their mental health at work. However, almost three quarters of them think that it is an appropriate topic of conversation in business.

Many are hesitant to open up about the psychological difficulties they are going through for fear of reprisals. They fear taking a risk for their job or their future prospects if they play the transparency card with their colleagues, and especially their superiors.

Managers also consider themselves poorly prepared to talk about this subject. Seven out of ten senior managers say they have not received specific training to learn how to talk about mental health with their colleagues. Nothing surprising when we know that managerial culture traditionally dissociates everything relating to private life and professional life.

Disorders that impinge on performance

But working people increasingly want their employer to take an interest in their personal situation, so that they can possibly offer them accommodations. We are thus tending towards management based more on affect than before, which is not always without difficulties.

For good reason, talking about mental health at work requires a certain tact. We must create an environment conducive to confidences and dialogue, without encroaching on the private sphere of employees. The idea is not that the employer resolves the psychological problems of its employees but that it takes them into consideration.

Because mental health has a direct impact on work ability and performance. A third of employees surveyed by the National Alliance on Mental Illness say their productivity is affected by their psychological problems. Conversely, 36% of respondents say that their work weighs on their mental well-being.

It is therefore essential to talk more freely about mental health in the office. Companies would do well to break the taboos around this subject, whether from an HR point of view but also from an economic point of view. Indeed, the World Health Organization estimated in a study, published in 2016 in the journal The Lancet Psychology, that every dollar invested in the treatment of depression and anxiety returns four, in the form of a improvement of general health and work capacity. A return on investment that far exceeds the costs.

*The National Alliance on Mental Illness study was conducted between January 4 and 9, through Ipsos, among 2,062 Americans aged 18 or older, working full-time in a company employing at least 100 people.