Guest blog by Shira Moffatt, Director of Marketing and External Relations at AllHealth Network
Colorado is one of the fastest growing economies with highly-skilled employees moving here in droves. While we enjoy a rich quality of life we are also ranked #5 in the list of US cities with the highest suicide rates. Suicide kills more Coloradans each year than homicide, car crashes, diabetes or breast cancer. At least three out of ten Coloradans experience mental health problems each year, and these are just reported numbers. Due to the stigma associated with mental illness, many people suffer in silence.
AllHealth Network is working with the business community to form and lead a collective movement that will elevate the conversation around addiction and mental health. We know that people experience much of their stress at work or associated with their work, which made the business community a sensible place to start. To address mental health in the workplace, we identified actionable steps to strengthen both the workforce and community, so we can collectively work towards eradicating suicide and helping people live better. These steps will include providing employees with training and education, access to resources, and encouragement to seek treatment when needed. Now more than ever, the business community can provide leadership to empower and support its workforce and take action toward solving a critical community problem.
We know we can’t do this alone as a behavioral healthcare network, which is why partnership is so important to this effort. We must come together as a community with the help of business leaders to take a stand against suicide and make a commitment to mental wellness. Culture change starts at the top. Research shows a CEO’s personal commitment will ensure wellness permeates the culture from day one, which is why we are asking leaders to take a pledge in support of mental health access and awareness.
The pledge is simple: CEOs and leaders commit to fostering a culture in partnership with AllHealth Network that supports mental health wellness and life without addictions. AllHealth Network commits to being a leader in the community to address the issue of suicide—both for the clients we serve and for the individuals in our community who have not yet engaged in services or have disengaged from services. We work together with businesses to educate the community on mental health and wellness, as well as how to recognize mental illness and refer people to the appropriate treatment.
There is no doubt that investing in a mentally healthy workforce is good for business. It can lower total medical costs, increase productivity, lower absenteeism, and decrease disability costs. In fact, the National Alliance for Mental Illness published that mental illness costs businesses approximately $440 billion annually. In the US, approximately $21.7 billion dollars are lost by employers due to productivity decline.
In the year since its inception, we have spoken with numerous interested business leaders and have partnered with ten signees thus far, including Chancellor Rebecca Chopp from the University of Denver and Mike Fitzgerald, CEO of Denver South EDP. Based on feedback from our 25-person advisory committee comprised of business leaders, we have shaped the direction of this effort and recently developed a 60-90 minute training for businesses that will be piloted this week. In the coming year, we hope to have 40 mgmore leaders sign the pledge and hopefully save lives.
As mental health becomes a greater focus in the discussion about overall health it will become more the norm for businesses to have policies, practices and initiatives in place to support this. We are excited to be at the forefront of this movement with our business partners at our side.
Click here to learn more about the pledge.