Mentally ill workers an asset

Sunday, 17 September, 2006

A mental health expert has told businesses to expect 20% of their staff to be affected by illness in any 12-month period.

Faye Jackson of mental health advisory service Vision In Mind said employers should view mental illness as simply part of doing business and learn how to harness the potential of workers with such illnesses.

"If one in five people has blue eyes, one in five has blond hair and one in five has a lump in their nose or some other minor physical defect and these three scenarios are considered "˜normal', then in turn we must get used to the idea of mental illness being "˜normal'. It is just a different kind of normal," she said.

Jackson said the prevalence and cost of mental illness is now so great it can no longer be ignored. Depression alone is estimated to reduce productivity by 40% and, left untreated, costs an employer an estimated $9660 each year for every person who has undiagnosed mental illness.

The World Health Organisation predicts that by the year 2020 mental illness will be the leading cause of illness and subsequent loss of revenue in developed countries. Rather than viewing mental illness as a burden to business, Jackson recommends companies harness the unique potential such employees can possess.

"It is highly possible to have people with mental illness on staff who can be "˜value adding' employees that give your company the leading edge.

"People with controlled mental illness can increase productivity, are often "˜thought leaders' and diligent workers if supported and acknowledged as valuable and their talents utilised," she said.

Jackson will detail how employers can best manage people with mental health issued to delegates at The Safety Conference during her 18 October address.


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