From Our 2010 Archives

Workers Fear Stigma of Seeking Mental Health Care

SATURDAY, Jan. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Fears about losing status at work and about confidentiality are among the main reasons that many American workers are more hesitant to seek treatment for mental health issues than for physical health problems, according to a national survey released this week by the American Psychiatric Association.

More than 40% of the 1,129 respondents said their employer was supportive or extremely supportive of their workers seeking care for health concerns. However, the online survey also found that barriers persist for workers who said their workplace is unsupportive of employees seeking treatment, especially for mental health concerns.

Among employees, 76% believed their work status would be damaged by seeking treatment for drug addiction, 73% for alcoholism, and 62% for depression, compared with 55% who thought seeking care for diabetes would affect their work status and 54% for heart disease.

"It is important to support an environment that encourages employees taking care of their physical and mental health," Dr. Alan Axelson, chairman of the association's Partnership for Workplace Mental Health Advisory Council, said in an association news release. "Research supports the fact that when people receive needed care, they are healthier and more productive -- and employers realize the return on their health care investment."

The partnership offers the suggestions for employers:

  • Supervisors and managers should lead by example by taking care of their physical and mental health.
  • Workplaces should promote prevention, early intervention and wellness programs. This includes holding health fairs, providing healthy meals and snacks at meetings, encouraging exercise and promoting a balance between work and the rest of an employee's life.
  • Employees should be discouraged from coming to work if they're ill.
  • Workers should be reminded of health benefits and available programs, and efforts should be taken to make sure they know how to access care.
  • Employees should be reassured about confidentiality, especially those seeking mental health treatment.

-- Robert Preidt

Copyright © 2010 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: American Psychiatric Association, news release, Jan. 25, 2010