December 13, 2001
APA, Leading Employers Join Forces to
Combat Mental Health Impact of Terrorism, Disaster
- The American Psychiatric Association and leading U.S. employers have
launched the "National Partnership for Workplace Mental Health" to combat
the mental health impact of terrorism, disaster and economic uncertainty in
The 14-member National Partnership will provide employers nationwide with a
first-response capability -- educational materials, training and other tools
-- to meet the mental health needs of their employees in the wake of
terrorism and disaster.
"Employers across the country -- both large and small -- need to be better
prepared to cope with the psychological fallout associated with major
disaster," said Paul Huard, senior vice president, National Association of
Manufacturers. "The partnership will give us the knowledge and the tools
employers need to help their own employees. Potentially, we can make a major
contribution to worker health and productivity," he added.
Founding members -- who will provide advice and counsel as this workplace
initiative expands its outreach -- include: American Psychiatric
Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Center for Mental
Health Services, Constellation Energy, Delta Air Lines, Dow Chemical, DuPont,
GlaxoSmithKline, Hughes Electronics, IBP, Merrill Lynch, National
Association of Manufacturers, The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., and
The Partnership will establish a Service Center located at the American
Psychiatric Association in Washington, D.C. Center staff will develop a
broad array of services including:
* Science-based mental health educational materials tailored to specific
industries and work sites; * Training curricula that employers can adapt to
the needs of their workforce; * Tool kits to screen employees for early
signs of stress and mental distress; * A corps of trainers to assist
employers with identifying and responding to mental health issues; * A
Partnership web site http://www.workplacementalhealth.org/ will be a
primary communication channel between the Partnership and employers of all
sizes across the country at no cost; and * Studies on workplace mental
health issues, and on the comparative effectiveness of new workplace mental
health prevention and intervention strategies.
"The employers in this partnership already have in place extraordinary
programs for helping their employees deal with disaster and maintain mental
health," said Richard K. Harding, M.D., president, American Psychiatric
Association. "The goal of the partnership is to further hone these 'best
practices' and disseminate them to the rest of the employer community."
Mental disorders exact a heavy toll on the workforce. Prior to September 11,
depression was the third-ranked workplace health problem. Work days lost to
depression exceed absences due to diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and
back problems. The National Institute of Mental Health conservatively
estimates that lost productivity, absenteeism, and disability due to mental
illness cost U.S. employers an estimated $70 billion annually.
A post-attack study by the Pew Research Center reported that more than half
of Americans reported classic symptoms of clinical depression and anxiety,
including trouble sleeping and concentrating. Many employees remain anxious
about possible future terrorism.
"We intend to work with other companies and the APA through the National
Partnership to help businesses directly affected by the events of 9/11
identify workers who could benefit from psychiatric or psychological
evaluation and treatment, and to offer expert guidance and support in
accessing those services," said David J. McDowell, Ph.D., vice president and
regional medical director, UnumProvident Corporation.