Conferences & Events

Reversing the question on depression and mental illness in the workplace

Industrial_Organizational_Lg_880x340The World Health Organization has estimated depression will become the second most common cause of disability in the developed world by 2020, behind only cardiovascular disease.  To examine the economic and human costs of mental illness on individuals and businesses, the British Columbia-based BC Business recently brought together three experts for a Q&A Round Table: Mental Illness in the Workplace.

We posted the story to the Adler School Facebook page and asked: How can we help businesses address mental health and illness in the workplace? The post received an especially thought-provoking response we felt should be shared, from Sharon Glassburn, who is completing her M.A. in Marriage and Family Counseling at the Adler School and currently, her clinical practicum with the Family Counseling Center in Joliet, Ill.  She wrote:

I really struggle with the classification of clinical depression as a ‘disability.’ Provided enough environmental stress, any given person can become depressed, and that doesn’t equate it with cardiovascular disease, or a disease at all. The sentence in this article, ‘depression and anxiety disorders are taking their toll on workplace productivity,’ needs to be reverse-examined: The unrealistic demands of ‘workplace productivity’ are taking their toll on societal mental health.

We create drugs to pacify mood states and correct attention ‘deficits,’ but the culture of constant production and constant consumption creates, perpetuates, and commodifies these symptoms of mental illness, maintaining a dysfunctional system. People are forced to constantly stuff down their feelings and push aside their families to ‘function’ and gain capital. I think the solution should be to slow down, not accomodate these inhuman standards of emotion and work demands.

In shifting the paradigm here, Sharon raises important points about environmental, systemic, and societal factors that impact mental health and well-being–a hallmark of our work and thinking here at the Adler School.

What dysfunctional factors have you seen at work in the business environment? What systemic changes can be made to address them toward creating true workplace well-being?