Summit Promotes Mental Health in the Workplace
"Employers worry that people with mental illnesses can be
disruptive to the workplace, but we are here to say that people
with mental illnesses don't conform to the stereotypes," said
Bernard S. Arons, M.D., Director of SAMHSA's Center for Mental Health
Services (CMHS) in welcoming participants to a conference this fall
on initiatives to support mental health in the workplace.
Titled "Hand in Hand: It's Worth the Investment! A National
Summit on Best Practices for Mental Health in the Workplace,"
the summit was cosponsored by CMHS, the Department of Labor's Presidential
Task Force on the Employment of Adults with Disabilities, and a
coalition of public and private organizations including Johnson
& Johnson and the W. K. Kellogg Foundation.
The summit highlighted not only the value of hiring people with
mental disabilities, but also the importance of encouraging mental
health in the workplace for all employees.
As SAMHSA Administrator Charles G. Curie, M.A., A.C.S.W., told
participants, "Mental health in the workplace represents a
true win-win situation for both employees and employers, because
employers who focus on mental health in the workplace and the mental
health of their employees improve their bottom line."
Leaders from business, government, associations, and health care
professions as well as consumers of mental health services shared
tools that employers can use to promote hiring of people with psychiatric
disabilities, advice about establishing consumer-operated businesses,
information on the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family
Leave Act, and success stories. Researchers also discussed findings
from their studies. (See SAMHSA News article, Employment:
A Workable Option Despite Mental Illness.)
Featured speakers included Pulitzer Prize-winning humor columnist
and author Art Buchwald, and John F. Nash, Jr., Ph.D., the 1994
Nobel Prize winner in economics and subject of the movie, A
Mr. Buchwald described the public disclosure of his depression
and the tremendous support he received. He noted that support—not
only from mental health service providers, but also family, friends,
and loved ones—is critical for individuals who suffer from
depression. He also discussed the problem of stigma, saying "As
far as illnesses of the mind, we are still in the dark. I'm trying
to get the message out that depression is just another illness."
Dr. Nash said that although he was not officially employed by
Princeton University after his hospitalizations, he did have access
to computers and other resources at the university. Emphasizing
the importance of this to his recovery, he said, "I didn't
get official employment, but I got something like 'occupational
Congressional support was expressed by U.S. Representatives Pete
Stark (D-CA) and Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), who also addressed participants.
U.S. Health and Human Services Deputy Secretary Claude A. Allen,
J.D., told participants in closing, "The President's New Freedom
Initiative recognizes that more needs to be done to ensure adequate
accommodations for people with disabilities. We must remember that
wherever a door is closed to anyone because of a disability, we
must work to open it. Working together, we can make this happen."
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