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Workers Fear Stigma of Seeking Mental Health Care

Employers urged to do more to remove barriers to treatment

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

More information

Mental Health America has more about mental illness and stigma.

-- Robert Preidt

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

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