Joyce Murphy in Worcester Business Journal: Mental illness in the workplace is a huge concern

July 09, 2015

Employers have not been as comfortable addressing mental illnesses in the workplace as physical illnesses, Joyce A. Murphy, MPA, executive vice chancellor of UMass Medical School’s Commonwealth Medicine division, told the Worcester Business Journal. She believes the NAMI pledge will lead to change.

“It’s a huge concern and I think historically that businesses … have not been as comfortable dealing with mental illnesses as they have with physical illness,” Murphy said in the July 8 article, which focused on the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Massachusetts campaign to end the stigma of mental illness in the workplace. Murphy was one of the first 25 CEOs in Massachusetts to sign the NAMI pledge and spoke at a June 26 press conference to launch the campaign.

Employers know mental illnesses such as depression can affect productivity, Murphy told the Worcester Business Journal, and she believes business leaders in the Greater Worcester area will respond well to NAMI Massachusetts’ CEOs Against Stigma campaign.

NAMI says that a survey found depression is the most costly illness, either physical or mental, for businesses, according to Worcester Business Journal. Mental illness can cause absenteeism or “presenteeism,” when employees are at work, but aren’t productive.

Mental illness affects one in five adults and is the leading cause of workplace disability. Unlike physical illnesses, mental illness carries a stigma that prevents many people from discussing their condition at work – leading to high turnover, low productivity and increased employer costs.

CEOs Against Stigma recognizes that top-down leadership is required to change misconceptions about mental illness – including depression and substance use – so employees have the opportunity to speak freely about conditions affecting them and their immediate families, and seek support.

The campaign is open to all Massachusetts companies with at least 50 employees. CEOs are asked to sign a pledge that “encourages communication and understanding to foster a stigma-free workplace.” It also includes a commitment to bring NAMI’s “In Our Own Voice” (IOOV) presentations into the workplace. Recognized by a leading national mental health researcher as the most effective anti-stigma program in America, IOOV features two people telling their personal stories of recovery.