An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure
May 4, 2023
Written by – Joseph Ricciuti, SEB and Chair, Mental Health International
Mental health issues have become the leading and fastest-growing cause of workforce disability. Not only is absenteeism and disability impacted by ill mental health, but there is an “exponential” effect on health care costs, performance issues and occupational injuries.
Depression, a major cause of disability claims, is a pernicious chronic disorder and is clinically linked to a number of other chronic physical disorders including heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, digestive problems, asthma and thyroid disease.
In cases where these conditions co-occur, the minimal impairment of one is often overpowered by the disabling effects of the other, and the result is a compounded rate of disability and absence from work.
Job performance is significantly impaired – sevenfold when an employee lives with depression vs. the absence of depression.
Long-term disability is often the end result of mental conditions which go unrecognized, untreated or treated improperly in the early sick leave and short-term disability periods.
The longer workers are off work for any reason, the more likely it is that a mental health problem becomes a secondary diagnosis and the less likely they will return to work at all. After 12 weeks, studies show that 75% return to work. After one year, the rate of those who return to work plummets to 25%.
While awareness of this problem is growing, awareness of solutions is less so. Access to an accurate diagnosis is sporadic at best and only serves to support a host of trial-and-error curative solutions rather than wellbeing initiatives. A result of under-investing in demand-side or prevention strategies and over-investing in supply-side or curative solutions!
We need to take aim at this imbalance with a call to action. The mental illness burden is growing and despite increased treatment plans, the prevalence rate has not budged. The urgency is real and lives are at risk. There is much hope on the horizon as a new era is emerging on the prevention front. New possibilities to mitigate mental health issues now exist with the convergence of the epigenetics and functional genomics revolution, fueled by ‘technological’ advances, to reveal valuable insights into the genetic architecture of mental health disorders.
An encouraging sign to support a small investment in prevention now…. for a large return on investment from Mental Health cost savings and productivity gains in the near future.
For more information on the topic, you can check out the Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences (Ontario Shores). Ontario Shores provides a range of specialized assessment and treatment services to those living with complex and serious mental illness.