While I applaud the Obama Administration’s passing into law of The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equality Act in January of this year, its achievement is more symbolic than practical. Mandating that Employers provide equal coverage for the treatment of mental health disorders, it does nothing to address the issue that costs four times as much in terms of dollars and infinitiely more in terms of human suffering; the lack of recognition of mental health disorders. Of the 10% of the work force that suffers with Depression annually in the U.S., most of these individuals are being treated inadequately or not being treated at all; and this is not simply due to the perceived stigma surounding mental health diorders disuading individuals to seek treatment. 50% of patients with depression do not seek medical help; 50 % of those who turn to their doctors are not diagnosed, and only one-half of those who are correctly diagnosed receive appropriate medical treatment.(1)
Employers did not need Mental Health Parity Legislation to have a bottom line motivation to invest in the mental health of its workforce. Absence, disability and lost productivity related to mental illness cost employers more than four times the cost of employee medical treatment.(2)
It appears that mental health disorders are not only difficult to identify clinically, their exorbitant cost has no designated column on a balance sheet, either.
This physician’s diagnosis is that we have a Societal Disability to rationally confront the issue of mental health. If we do not raise our standards from simply shooting an even par, I am afraid that our prognosis is grim.
Mitchell R. Weisberg, MD, MP
(1) Ann Intern Med April 20, 2010 152:JC4-13;
(2) Partnership for Workplace Mental Health, A Mentally Healthy Workforce—It’s Good for Business , (2006), www.workplacementalhealth.org.