Statistically speaking, at least some of your employees are likely affected by mental health problems. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one in four U.S. adults (approximately 61.5 million Americans) experiences a mental illness in a given year, and one in seventeen U.S. adults (approximately 13.6 million Americans) live with a “serious mental illness,” such as schizophrenia, major depression, or bipolar disorder.

NAMI estimates that the rates for the most common mental illnesses in the U.S. are:

  • 42 million adult Americans (18.1% of the population) live with anxiety disorders, such as panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or generalized anxiety disorders or phobias.
  • 8 million adult Americans (6.7% of the population) live with major depression.
  • 1 million adult Americans (2.6% of the population) live with bipolar disorder.
  • 4 million adult Americans (1.1% of the population) live with schizophrenia.

See NAMI Mental Illness Facts and Numbers (March 2013).

The high prevalence of mental health problems makes it imperative that employers understand what legal rules may apply to employees with mental health issues. Many mental illnesses may qualify as a disability and potentially require reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act, provided that certain conditions are satisfied. Alternatively, employees with mental illnesses may be entitled to leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act – however, that is not always the case.

Takeaway: Given the statistics, employers should expect that mental health issues will affect at least some portion of their workforce and make sure to understand any legal requirements that may be implicated. For large employers, in particular, Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) can be an effective way of providing employees with an option to seek help if they need it.