How some CEOs in Massachusetts plan to end mental health stigmas at work

State leaders recently joined the campaign, "CEOs Against Stigma."

According to the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI Mass), mental illness is the leading cause of disability in the workplace.
According to the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, mental illness is the leading cause of disability in the workplace. –Shutterstock

Mental illness is the leading cause of disability in the workplace, with an estimated 20 percent of U.S. adults suffering from some sort of depressive illness, according to the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

These illnesses can cause workers to have trouble being productive at work or to have sustained absences that ultimately hurt companies’ bottom lines.

That’s why in Massachusetts, some CEOs are making moves to end stigma surrounding mental illness, so that more employees get help when they need it.

State officials and local CEOs like Elizabeth Nabel, president of Brigham and Women’s Health Care, and Hillcrest Educational Centers CEO Jerry Burke have joined a campaign called “CEOs Against Stigma” that educates companies on the range of mental illnesses and the stigma that often surrounds them.

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CEOs that sign the campaign’s pledge have access to the mental illness alliance’s resources, which include presentations featuring two people who live with mental illness and openly share their personal stories about the onset of their disorders, their quest for answers and diagnosis, their treatment, and how they are achieving recovery.

The goal of CEOs Against Stigma is to not only help workers struggling with their own mental illness, but also to help businesses reduce turnover and sick days associated with mental illness.

To this end, the alliance says that the cost associated with mental disorders is consistently found to be greater than that of physical disorders. The highest total cost per worker per year was for mental disorders ($18,864 in 2002) — $5,000 greater than the costs associated with the next most costly medical condition: breathing disorders.

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