Supportive Employment Policies
Mental illnesses incidences are increasing rapidly at the workplace. Problems related with mental health are major disability contributors globally. They are ranked among top 10 leading disability causes. Countries are affected equally by mental illnesses whether they are poor or rich. The effects are felt across all ethnic groups, genders, ages and races. Additionally, researchers indicate further mental health problems are expected in the near future (Shaw et al., 2003).
The risks and burdens that accompany mental health at work places should not be overlooked. It is established 15 to 30 percent of employees will likely experience mental health complications in the course of work (UN, 2000). This issue has attracted plenty of public policy legislations and political attention. As such, the purpose of this paper is to discuss political issues and state, local policies and federal on employment of persons who are mentally ill.
Political Issues and Policies on Supportive Employment of Mentally Ill Persons
In majority of countries, there exists legislation that a state of disability should not keep one from enjoying a meaningful life. For example, the American Disability Act makes provision that employers are supposed to make noteworthy considerations where employment of persons who are mentally ill is concerned. It is necessary not only to provide support to such individuals but for the employer as well in order to enhance good working environment and relationship (Atkins & Weiss, 2002).
Mental illness is linked to various problems such as unemployment, lack of education and poverty as well as other problems. Depression prevalence is also high among individuals who are unemployed than among those employed. Unemployment as well has significant effects on the health and well-being of the people. On top of this insecure jobs also leads to health complications. For example, temporary workers face more difficulties in working environment than permanent workers (SAMHSA, 2003).
Therefore, government policies are extremely crucial in reducing and promoting unemployment as they have positive effects on the peoples’ mental well-being. A health mental policy for workplaces should be developed as a policy that is separate or part of health and safety policy. This ensures all aspects of mental health are also put into consideration (American Psychiatric Association, 2004). Examples of mental health policies at workplaces include retention arguments and good health. Few employers act on adage that good health equates to good business and even fewer of them recognize mental health importance’. There is however an inclusive approach towards well-being and mental health of employees. These approaches included reduction of absenteeism, acquiring necessary skills, creation of good work relationships, encouragement of productivity, employment of best managers, supporting and ensuring acceptance of all individuals as well as making ones place of work safe as well as efficient.
Many businesses on the other hand address problems of mental health at their places of work through development of policies. A mental health policy, usually aids in defining the vision as well as aim of improving mental condition of the work forces as well as establishing a model of action. After formulation, the policy not only identifies the agreement between the employee and employer but facilitates relationship between the various stakeholders at the workplace. A policy on mental health on employment of personals who are mentally ill can be developed as part of safety and health policy. Putting such a policy in place will involve the analysis of mental illness issues, development of actual policy, establishment of strategies to implement it as well as implementation of the policy. High levels of dedication and commitment are needed on the part of employer towards ensuring policy development (America Psychiatric Association, 2004).
The workplace policy on persons who are mentally ill is normally based on an understanding of the issues that are associated with the illness which is obtained after thorough assessment of the predicament (Shaw et al., 2003). This information might include data records from the department of human resources, occupational health record, health records and financial reports. New information collection is just as important as well. Research and surveys should be carried out on the incidence and occurrence of mental illness at places of work so as to identify occupational health risks and safety matters within the workplace. Interviews are supposed to be conducted with employees, managers, medical officers and families so as to get new information (America Psychiatric Association, 2004).
At national level, the government has the responsibility of promoting mental wellness, ensuring proper mental illness treatment and preventing mental issues as well. The government also targets workplaces in its strategies of prevention and promotion. On top of this, the government is itself, the employer. However, the administrative structures differ greatly in overseeing employment of persons who are mentally ill. The Ministry of Health also aids the government in formulation of mental health policy, suggests frameworks for promotion of employees’ mental health and implements mental health policies. As a matter of fact, mental health policy should define relationship between the health and work of the employees (World Health Organization, 2005).
The ministry of Labor, on the other hand has the mandate of ensuring health and safety at workplaces. This does not just include supervision and regulation of safety and health but protection of incomes for persons who are mentally ill. Improvement of management of mental health issues among the employees leads to changes in legislation of policies which is accompanied by relevant policy implementation.
The government as well has a crucial role to play towards ensuring the policies get implemented and they provide framework that promotes implementation of mental health policy and ensures the employees suffering from mental health complications get proper and adequate treatment. These policies cover issues of discrimination, safe environment, income and other mental health issues noted among employees (America Psychiatric Association, 2004).
The UN has committed to ensure persons with disabilities get the same opportunities as those without and they are allowed to take part in any economic activity which also includes employment. The law on antidiscrimination was introduced in many countries and it has proven to be the most vital and effective legislation so far as improvement and employment of mental health within the workplace is concerned. The United Nations adopted standard rules on equal opportunities for personals with disabilities in 1993 (UN, 2000). The rules further identified a couple of issues that needed quick action and which were lacking for purposes of attaining equal opportunities for all people which includes the disabled. Some of these issues included creation of awareness, health care, support services, rehabilitation services, and protection of income, employment and security among others.
The International Labor Organization in 1998, declared fundamental principles and workplace rights which ensured the commitment of government, workers and employers. On top of this, employer’s organizations upheld standards and principles in 3 main areas of employing people with disability which included elimination, discrimination and promotion at workplace SAMHSA, 2003). Antidiscrimination legislation also prohibits the discrimination of people suffering from mental illness. The effectiveness of these laws depends on model of disability and the inclusive nature of mental health problems, equality aspect for instance, in promotion of access to training and education, appearance of legislation in civil, labor and criminal laws. The laws of antidiscrimination as well include people with mental illness. The US for instance, passed the 1990 Disability Act which prohibits employers from carrying out acts of discrimination against people with mental illness in any aspect as job applicants or employees deserve to enjoy equal treatment (UN, 2000).
The laws of antidiscrimination make it unlawful for employers to discriminate against people with mental illness and requires employers to be responsible in creating environments that are conducive to ensure all people, including those with disabilities, work well in these companies (NIMH, n.d). The national government, on the other hand has numerous strategies that ensure persons with mental illness or disabilities are employed. These include the use of quota schemes requiring certain businesses to employ specific number of people with disabilities; nondiscrimination laws, content that it is unlawful for employers to discriminate against persons with mental illness or disability and job retention requires that employers should retain employees who are disabled while working for them (America Psychiatric Association, 2004).
Employees, in addition need protection against cost of disability and illness. This should include both treatment cost and salaries loss as a result of inability to work. Financial protection is based on three principles (Atkins & Weiss, 2002). First, employees ought to enjoy protection from severe financial expenses through reduction of their cost on mental health care. Secondly, healthy people are supposed to support the sick through subsidizing their health care through strategies such as prepayment services of mental illness. Thirdly, the rich are supposed to offer support to the poor.
Majority of the small business enterprises on the other hand address problems of mental health at their workplace through development of policies. A mental health policy usually assists in definition of the aim and vision of improving mental state of work forces through establishment of a model of action. Once the policy is formulated, it not only identifies the agreement between the employee and employer but it facilitates relationship between the different stakeholders at the workplace. Unfortunately, majority of the employees in small businesses or enterprises, self-employed or on part-time employment do not have access to income protection as a result of mental illnesses (UN, 2000). Such people are at great risk of financial hardship and crisis in case of mental complications which impair their ability to work. As such, the employers and government needs to join hands and devise ways of ensuring all employees are protected adequately against financial crisis cause by mental illness.
Other policies and provisions on mental illness focus on duties of the employer in provision of safe work environment (America Psychiatric Association, 2004). They commit employers to development of safety workplaces. For example, the International Labor Organization develops programs which ensure and promote safety at work places. The main objective of the organization is increasing global awareness on impacts and aspects of mental illness, diseases, injuries and enhancing the capacity of industries and states to implement and develop effective policies and programmes as well as protecting all the employees.
Most of the national laws have addressed employees’ safety. For instance, the 1994 Safety Act and Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulation of 1999 ensures that employers provide safe environments for employers, accesses and controls risks that are associated with mental health (Shaw et al., 2003). The laws as well make employers responsible for ensuring the safety of employees at workplaces and support as well as assisting persons with disabilities. For such policies to be put into place, it demands the analysis of the issue on mental illness, development of actual policy, establishment of strategies to implement it as well as policy implementation. High level of dedication and commitment is needed from the employer in order to ensure development of the policy (WHO, 2005).
Majority of employees are affected by mental issues depending on the health care services that are offered by private sectors, the government and NGOs for their medication. It is crucial that these services should be accessible and of the top most quality. Additionally, a mental health policy on the treatment of persons who are mentally ill should be developed as part of the safety and health policy. High dedication and commitment levels from employers are needed in order to ensure the policy is well developed (Atkins & Weiss, 2002)/
However, there are a couple of challenges that face introduction and implementation of mental health policies in the workplace though they do not come without solutions. First, employers firmly believe profits are higher when employees work for long hours while responding to mental issues can be very expensive to them. Majority of the employees do not understand the link between employees’ mental health and productivity. Second employers who run small businesses and with few employees might only understand the need of addressing mental health issues in large organizations but not small ventures such as theirs. These business owners therefore rely on the government and the existing services of mental health care (Shaw et al., 2003).
Thirdly, stakeholders might resist development and implementation of mental health policy as well as accompanying strategies. This is because they might not be aware of the influence mental health has on productivity and performance at work places. It is important to conduct consultation and assessment with stakeholders during implementation and development of the policies. For instance, demonstration of projects and discussion n meetings can help people get better understanding (NIMH, n.d).
At national level, the Ministry of Health aids the government in formulating mental health policy, suggests frameworks for promoting mental health of employees and implements mental health policies. As a matter of fact, mental health policy is supposed to define relationship between health of employees and work (WHO, 2005). The government has the mandate for promoting mental wellness, preventing mental issues and ensuring mental illness is properly treated. The government also targets workplaces in prevention and promotion strategies. On top of this, the government is an employer itself. However, the administrative structures differ greatly in how they oversee the employment of persons with mental illness.
Mental illness contributes to disability and is linked to numerous problems such as unemployment, poverty, lack of education and other issues. Depression prevalence is high among people who are unemployed than those employed. Unemployment as well has significant effects on the health and well-being of the people (NIMH, n.d.). On top of this, insecure jobs can also lead to health problems. For example, temporary workers indicate more difficulties in working compared to permanent workers. As such, various policies need to be developed and implemented by organizations and government to support persons who are mentally ill. The policies should address issues such as employment, income protection, retention as well as safety for persons who are mentally ill (SAMHSA, 2003). Other policies and provisions of mental illness should focus on the employer’s duties in provision of a working environment that is safe. They should commit employers to guarantee safety at workplaces.
American Psychiatric Association (2004). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, 4th ed. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.
Atkins, A. & Weiss, H. (2002). Program evaluation: the bottom line in organizational health. In: Quick JC, Tetrick LC, eds., Handbook of occupational health psychology, Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
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Shaw WS et al. (2003). Employee perspectives on the role of supervisors to prevent workplace disability after injuries. Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, Vol. 13(3): 129-142.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (2003). National household survey on drug abuse: main findings, 1991. Rockville, MD (DHHS Publication No. SMA 93-1980).
United Nations (2000). The Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for People with Disabilities. UN General Assembly Resolution 48/96