Harvard Pilgrim’s CEO, Eric Schultz, has signed on to be a part of the CEOs Against Stigma campaign led by the National Alliance on Mental Illness – Massachusetts (NAMI Mass). The statewide campaign aims to create stigma-free, more productive work environments by encouraging communication and understanding around mental health conditions and by eliminating misconceptions and fear of disclosure.
“We are going to work tirelessly to guarantee a healthy workplace for all Harvard Pilgrim employees, including those who have mental health conditions,” said Schultz.
Leading cause of disability
According to a report prepared by NAMI Mass, mental illness is the leading cause of disability in the workplace, and the stigma associated with it is the single greatest barrier to treatment. Approximately one out of every five American adults experience some form of mental illness in a given year, with depression and anxiety being especially common. Yet many will never seek treatment due to widespread negative stereotypes about the causes and effects of these issues.
At the core of the CEOs Against Stigma campaign is the concept that, as the most influential person in the organization, the CEO is crucial in enacting change by personally committing to a supportive workplace. And beyond sympathizing with the suffering of fellow workers, which is in itself a strong motivator for CEOs like Schultz, it’s important for CEOs to recognize that ignoring stigma related to mental health is bad for business. Untreated mental disorders can lead to workplace accidents and long bouts of absenteeism, which means loss of productivity and loss of money.
Eliminating barriers to treatment
Fewer than a third of employees coping with mental illness receive the treatment they need, often due to fear of the ramifications of being labelled as mentally ill by their coworkers and employers. A supportive workplace environment characterized by understanding, open communication, and mutual respect can vastly alleviate the negative effects of depression.
As with mental health disorders like anxiety and depression, stigma is also often a strong deterrent to patients seeking treatment for substance use disorders. The Engagement of Alcohol and Other Drug Dependence Treatment (IET) HEDIS measure seeks to increase diagnosis and treatment (including follow-up) in patients age 13 and older with substance use disorders. Because patients often do not seek the care they need for such issues due to the stigma attached to them, it is imperative that their PCPs look for the signs and help make them feel comfortable initiating and engaging in treatment with a behavioral health specialist.
How Optum/UBH can help your patients — For complex clinical situations, Optum/UBH is available to provide consultative assistance. Practitioners can call the Optum/UBH Physicians Consultation Service at 800-292-2922. To refer a patient for behavioral health services and to facilitate the coordination of care, call Optum at 888-777-4742.