5 Misconceptions About Mental Health and What It Means for Your Company

Bernie Wong | Senior Associate, Mind Share Partners

Despite the growing popularity of stress and wellbeing programs at companies, individuals with mental health conditions are often still seen with negative perceptions and stereotypes. Even though 20% of Americans will manage a mental health condition every year, these misconceptions have been shown to reduce our ability and willingness to understand and support these individuals. The fact, however, is that a majority of them are actively working and contributing in the workforce.

Here are 5 common misconceptions about mental health conditions and what it means for your company.

Myth #1. Mental health conditions are rare.

The prevalence of mental health conditions are actually quite common, if not the norm. Every year, 1 in 5 Americans will actively manage a diagnosable mental health condition—that’s 20% of our population. Over the course of a lifetime, upwards of 80% of individuals will manage a diagnosable mental health condition at some point in their life. In fact, the prevalence of mental health conditions are greater than diabetes, heart disease, or any kind of cancer. What’s more, these statistics don’t include the individuals who fall short on clinical diagnostic criteria or those who don’t seek treatment either. In reality, the individuals who never manage mental health symptoms or a condition are the overwhelming minority.

What it means for your company: U.S. companies are losing 217 million days or $17 billion in productivity every year. Not having systems, processes, or tangible benefits to support mental health is creating a large unmet need that negatively impacts the company.

Myth #2. Mental health conditions are always severe.

The perception that mental health conditions are always severe and debilitating illnesses is misleading. In 2016, 44.7 million adults were managing a mental health condition, yet less than one-fourth of these were categorized as “serious” or substantially interfered with or limited one or more major life activities. A majority of mental health conditions—while they certainly impact the quality of life for individuals and still warrant continued support, awareness, and movement-building in the field—do not prevent individuals from leading functional lives.

What it means for your company: There are employees who are managing a mental health condition and successfully leading your teams and growing the mission and vision of your organization. However, the way we conceptualize and treat these employees is both alienating and stigmatizing. It’s time to change the perception of these individuals and support them as valuable contributors to our companies.

Myth #3. Mental health conditions end careers.