- A message from Richard Feldman, President and CEO, Diamond Healthcare Corporation -
I was on a panel discussion earlier this year on healthcare issues at the VCU School of Business and asked this question of the 40 or so faculty and Executive MBA students in attendance: how many of you would be comfortable telling your employer you will not be coming into the office due to symptoms of depression, anxiety or other biologically-based mental health disorder? Two hands went up. Two. Then I asked, how many of you would let your employer know you will be out of the office due to a cold, fever or other more “acceptable in polite conversation” health issue? As you could expect, no one expressed concern with calling out for that type of discomfort.
So, what’s the problem here? The Center for Workplace Mental Health, a program of the American Psychiatric Association, reports that mental illnesses like depression cause more days of work loss and work impairment than any other chronic health conditions. Altruism aside for a moment, multiple research studies confirm the link between the treatment of mental illness and increased productivity on the job. And yet, that six-letter word, stigma, continues to weigh heavily on what most of us are willing to share with our co-workers or employer. Of course, to be clear, no one is obligated to share any personal information; that is one reason why most employers moved from “sick days” to PTO.
Education on the etiology of mental illness, and how newer treatments are allowing people to find a path to more productive personal and professional lives, is the best medicine to cure the social stigma that remains with regard to mental health. It certainly is helpful when public figures show the courage to speak out about their own circumstances, and the contentment found after seeking treatment. But, it shouldn’t take courage. It should just be matter of fact. We will get there, and Diamond will continue to do what we can to make that happen.