The Scholar: St. Mary's Law Review on Race and Social Justice


Charity Felts


This comment focuses on what American employers should be doing to recognize and deal with an employee population afflicted by mental illness. Americans suffer from a variety of mental health challenges. The symptoms of these mental illnesses vary from mild to severe. Often, if left untreated, these challenges can turn into full blown mental disorders. Employers typically ignore these issues due to high employee turnover rate and lack of employee loyalty. The cost attributable to mental illness every year is twenty-three billion dollars. However, when calculating the indirect costs like loss of productivity and absenteeism, the actual cost reaches $249 billion annually. Mental illness ranks second only to cardiovascular disease as a burdening disease in established economies. President George W. Bush identified obstacles confronting Americans who suffer from mental illnesses. These obstacles include the stigma associated with mental illness and discriminatory limitations associated with mental health treatment. President George W. Bush further described these obstacles as a stigmatization that leads to isolation, which hinders people from seeking help. No community or workplace remains untouched by mental illness. Employers hold an important position for combating these obstacles head-on. Education by employers would significantly help in breaking the stigma against mental illness. Congress, with its approval of the Mental Health Parity Act, hardly compels employers to act; however, even the courts further ratify policies of discrimination. This leaves the burden to educate and help American workers on their employers. The benefits of employers addressing the issue outweighs the costs to them of further ignoring it.

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