Healthy Employees Mean a Healthy Bottom-line

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As an employer, you are likely looking for ways to increase your staff productivity and efficiency while decreasing your costs. However, an often overlooked personnel cost is the impact of substance abuse and mental health issues on the bottom-line. A recent study released by The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) estimated the total annual economic cost of substance abuse in Canada at $39.8 billion – or $1,267 per person. In regards to mental health, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) approximately 450 million people worldwide are affected by mental, neurological or behavioural problems at any time. WHO reports that depression is one of the top four causes of disability worldwide and is expected to rise to at least the second leading cause of disability by the year 2020.

Employers should be aware that there is good evidence to suggest that employees experiencing mental health or substance abuse difficulties are likely to cost the employer money due to lost work days or reduced productivity. For example, one study suggests that substance abusing employees are absent or late 3 times more often, have 3.6 times more accidents and are 5 times more likely to file a workers compensation claim. Similarly, employees who experience both depression and stress utilize healthcare at a rate 250% higher than regular employees, a difference of $3,000 per employee, per year.

As a result of this realization, many large companies – 60% of Fortune 500 companies – have employee assistance programs (EAP) available to their employees to help address mental health and substance abuse issues early on. Cost-effective treatments exist for most disorders and by educating their employees to the benefits of dealing with these issues proactively and providing access to effective services, employers are not only helping to keep their employees content but also improving their economic bottom line. As an example, a study conducted for the McDonnell Douglas Corporation by an outside research firm showed an overall savings-to-investment ratio of 5:1 over the three years studied.

As a small business owner it may not always be feasible to enlist the services of an EAP, however, educating your staff to the benefits of early intervention for substance abuse and mental health issues such as depression, stress, anxiety, etc. will likely create a more emotionally healthy and economically productive work environment. Further, services for substance abuse are funded by the provincial government and are generally provided at no cost to the client (see phone book). Counselling for other mental health concerns can also be addressed at government-funded local Mental Health offices (phone book) or private or non-profit counselling services.

Peace Arch Community Services provides both government-funded substance abuse counselling and fee-for-service therapy for other mental health or marital difficulties. We would also be happy to provide you with a referral to a provider in your area. For further information contact us at (604) 531-6226.

by Martin A. Phillips-Hing, Ph.D.

[Article published in the Peace Arch News May 13, 2006]

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