Mental Health, Work Productivity, and the Benefits of Residential Treatment

Professional success significantly interferes with the perceived ability to get mental health treatment, even for people in deep psychiatric distress. However, by understanding the work productivity costs of not going to treatment and removing the barriers to acknowledging mental illness in the workplace, you can come to recognize the need for care. Finding the right treatment will ultimately help you unleash your true potential, allowing you to flourish both personally and professionally.

Recovering from mental illness takes work. It requires that you dedicate yourself to healing consistently to address the deeply rooted issues that cause your psychological distress and disrupt your ability to live a stable, joyful life. For busy professionals, however, that work can be disrupted by your actual work as you struggle to find the time to balance treatment and your professional obligations. Even weekly outpatient therapy can be difficult to commit to, whether you’re a big law lawyer working crushing hours, an executive with a full travel itinerary, or a physician with an unpredictable schedule. Under these conditions, residential treatment can seem impossible, even if your mental health disorder reaches a level of severity that keeps you from psychological and behavioral wellbeing.

Often, however, scheduling conflict isn’t the only barrier to treatment. Highly successful people typically obtain their success by a deep commitment to their work. Unfortunately, you may see mental health treatment as antithetical to work productivity, keeping you from engaging in the kind and quality of therapies you need to heal. But in fact, it is not mental health treatment that threatens work productivity; it is the proliferation of mental illness itself. In fact, untreated or undertreated mental health disorders incur significant costs and endanger your ability to function both personally and professionally.

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The Work Productivity Costs of Not Going to Treatment

In recent years, mental health in the workplace has become a hot topic, spurring investigations into the effects of mental health disorder on both employees and employers. According to the Institute of Health and Productivity Management, “mental health conditions are the No.1 health-related reason for lost productivity at work and No. 2 for absenteeism.” As Joseph Rauch writes, “Mental health conditions cost employers more than $100 billion and 217 lost workdays each year.”

While these numbers are staggering, it can be difficult to translate the macro view into your personal life, particularly if you have high-functioning mental illness or throw yourself into work as a coping mechanism for your distress. However, if you are honest with yourself, it is likely that you can identify ways—big or small—that your psychiatric illness interferes with your work productivity, whether it comes in the form of absenteeism or presenteeism. Does your depression interfere with your concentration? Does your anxiety cause procrastination? Does the instability of bipolar disorder keep your productivity in flux as your mood oscillates or make you call out sick in the depths of depression? Are you taking unwise risks?

It is rare to find someone struggling with a mental health disorder who is not negatively affected in terms of work productivity. Even if you are indeed able to retain high function in the near-term, the progressive nature of many mental illnesses means that it is likely you will eventually feel the professional impact of your disorder at some point. When that time comes, your condition may have reached a level of severity that complicates treatment and delays healing. In other words, the cost of not going to treatment isn’t simply counted in work productivity losses, but in the human cost of suffering.

Barriers to Acknowledging Mental Health Disorders

Growing awareness of how mental health disorders impact work productivity is slowly changing the way businesses think about mental distress. “The business case for addressing mental health and wellbeing has been established and is now featuring on many boardroom agendas,” says Poppy Jaman, program director for City Health mental Alliance in London. Meanwhile, Nick Barber, director of KPMG’s consulting team notes:

Over the last few years we have seen that individuals are feeling more confident speaking out on their mental health in the workplace, which in turn encourages others to be open and seek help proactively rather than waiting until their health deteriorates before they request support.

Indeed, many work places have now implemented dedicated mental wellness initiatives and are becoming well-versed in supporting the psychological wellness of their employees. This ultimately benefits employers by optimizing work productivity and minimizing losses caused by mental illness.

Despite this changing culture, top-level employees are often the least likely to tend to their own mental health. You may believe that disclosure of mental health struggles or taking time off for treatment will compromise your position. As Rauch points out, “Employees are afraid of discussing it. They don’t want to lose their jobs, damage relationships, or risk future employers learning of illnesses and judging them. The stigma of mental illness keeps them silent.” This may be especially true if you are shouldering a high level of responsibility or have a high-profile job; you fear that your ability to maintain stability and good judgment may be questioned or that your employer will see you as a liability.

In reality, your value to your employer makes it all the more important for you to seek the help that you need to regain mental health. You are an integral part of your organization and your talents are difficult to replace; ensuring that you are well and able to work up to capacity is likely a top priority for your employer. As such, you may be surprised by the support you experience should you choose to disclose your struggles with mental illness.

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Finding the Right Treatment

While you may have concerns about taking extended time off from work to seek help for your mental health disorder, residential treatment programs can be the best investment you make in your long-term personal and professional life. These programs can offer rapid relief from suffering by allowing you to receive more in a matter of weeks than you would in a year of outpatient therapy, using an individualized mix of modalitiesthat target your personal concerns. This means that you are able to optimize your work productivity as quickly as possible while increasing your overall quality of life. These programs can also be tailored to your unique situation and provide opportunities for keeping in contact with work while still benefitting from an intensive, personalized treatment curriculum.

Whether or not you choose to disclose your mental health disorder to your employer, you have rights that keep your job protected while seeking residential treatment. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)guarantees eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job protected leave. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation for qualifying disabilities, including mental health disorders. Your Employee Assistance Program or HR department can help you navigate the processes attendant to these pieces of legislation to ensure your job stays protected.

Avoiding mental health treatment due to professional obligations may appear to make sense, but can, in fact, endanger both your emotional wellness and your functional abilities. Connecting with compassionate treatment providers who understand your situation not only allows you to heal from the pain of mental illness, it can ultimately enhance your professional life by allowing you to reach your true potential.

Bridges to Recovery offers comprehensive residential treatment for people struggling with mental health disorders as well as co-occurring substance abuse and eating disorders. Contact us to learn more about our renowned Los Angeles programs, and how we can help you or your loved one start on the path to lasting wellness.