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Mental Health Screenings

Some employers assume that stressful working conditions are a necessary evil - that companies must turn up the pressure on workers and set aside health concerns to remain productive and profitable in today's economy. But research findings challenge this belief. Studies show that stressful working conditions are actually associated with increased absenteeism, tardiness, and intentions by workers to quit their jobs-all of which have a negative effect on the bottom line.NIOSH/Stress at Work

Poor mental health and drug and alcohol addictions affect millions of American workers each year. According to the Surgeon General's Report on Mental Health, 21% of the adult US population has a mental health problem each year. Poor mental health, along with drug and alcohol abuse problems causes a monumental toll on American workplaces each year through lost productivity and health care costs.

The National Work Life Program recommends a "more responsive health/mental health services and human resources responses" as one of six strategies to minimize mental health costs to employers.

According to NIOSH, the first step in dealing with excessive work stress (one of the leading causes of mental and physical health problems) is identifying the problem. The American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychiatric Foundation have stated that "If early identification of mental disorders can save money, then screening for mental illness is one of the most effective tools employers can use to cut costs."

Worksites may wish to consider offering validated, reliable mental health screening tools as part of a comprehensive worksite health promotion (WHP) program to help employees identify possible mental health issues that could be followed up by an EAP or other mental health organization. Many companies offer such screenings in a variety of forms: web-, telephone-, or paper-based. Each has different advantages, and may be appropriate for different "audiences" of employees. Traditionally screenings were conducted in a paper-based or telephone-based setting, however new technology has led to the rise of web-based screenings. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), "[p]erhaps most compelling is the technology's round-the clock availability, which accommodates different work schedules and locations while offering privacy and confidentiality and may increase access from those client segments most hesitant about seeking traditional face-to-face counseling." Planners of WHP programs should select the method of screening that is most likely to be accessible and used by their employees, recognizing that often more than one method may be needed to fit the needs of all employees. As with any other health screening tool, care should be taken to ensure confidentiality of any screening results.

In the workplace, depression is a leading cause of absenteeism and diminished productivity.1 Screening for Mental Health, Inc. offers an free, on-line depression screening. For additional information about depression and local treatment services, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's National Mental Health Information Center at (800) 789-2647.

1Greenberg, P.E.; Stiglin, L.E.; Finkelstein, S.N.; et al. The economic burden of depression. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 54:425-426, 1993.

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