Very slowly entrepreneurs are starting to open up about their mental health struggles and talk publicly about the toll starting up can take don their mental well being. That's a helpful breath of fresh air for fellow founders and those contemplating starting a business, but are employees following suit and feeling increasingly able to be open about any mental health issues they might face?

Not so much, according to new research by Dr. Carolyn Dewa of the University of Toronto. She surveyed more than 2,000 Canadians, asking them how open they'd be willing to be about any mental health issues they were facing. A full third said that they'd hide such problems from their boss, citing worries about how publically acknowledging their issues would affect their careers as the reason.

The cost of stigma

That's obviously bad news for employees who are struggling in silence with depression, anxiety and other mental health worries, but it's pretty terrible for employers too. According to the National Business Group on Health, untreated mental illness costs American employers a hefty $100 billion a year.

The continued fear around talking about these problems at work flagged up by this new study certainly can't be helping workers acknowledge mental health problems and get the time and help they need to deal with them. As Dewa commented, "stigma is a barrier to people seeking help. Yet by getting treatment, it would benefit the worker and the workplace, and minimize productivity loss."

How to be a better boss to employees with mental health issues

If you find these numbers concerning and want to be the type of boss who employees feel they can confide in, advice abounds. Previously here on Inc.com we outlined seven ways to be a better boss to employees with mental health issues, including simple steps like "checking in" regularly with affected employees and more substantive support like offering the workplace accommodations they need.

Dewa also suggests bosses clarify their response to employee mental health challenges by creating a "disclosure plan." She explains: "the plan would address areas in which there are functional difficulties. The manager and worker could create a list of work accommodations to help compensate for the difficulties. In this way, there is an acknowledgement of potential decreases in productivity. Concomitantly, there is a concrete way of meeting them. In this way, it reinforces the idea that struggles with mental disorders at work are something that can be successfully addressed."

 

 

Published on: Feb 16, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.