Supporting Worker
Mental Health Benefits

Mental health is one of the most pressing concerns in the United States. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness, such as depression, anxiety, or substance abuse.1 These conditions can cause significant distress to individuals and their families. In addition, mental health symptoms can have negative effects on job performance and safety.

Workplaces increasingly realize that helping workers improve their mental health is universally beneficial. Programs to address employee well-being can mitigate workplace stress, improve overall health, and increase job satisfaction for workers.

Safeguarding employee mental wellness is a wise investment for employers: the World Health Organization estimates that for every dollar U.S. employers spend treating common mental health issues, they receive a return of $4 in improved health and productivity.2

One tool for directly addressing whole health concerns is facilitating access to healthcare providers trained in Mental Health First Aid. These professionals are ideally positioned to identify signs of mental distress and guide workers to appropriate care.

The Impacts of Mental Health Issues in the Workplace

According to a 2021 study published in Harvard Business Review, 76% of surveyed employees recounted at least one symptom of a mental health condition. That was an 18% increase from a similar study conducted in 2019. The same study noted that workers at all levels of seniority are affected by mental health concerns. The 2021 study revealed that organizational leaders are now more likely than other employees to report at least one mental health symptom.3

Unmanaged mental health symptoms cause daily challenges such as:

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Family conflicts
  • Increased stress
  • Anxiety
  • Learning difficulties
  • Work/life balance issues

These symptoms can cause problems in the workplace, including:

Absenteeism. Mental health conditions can be as disruptive to work attendance as physical health issues. A 2022 Gallup poll revealed that U.S. workers who rate their mental health as fair or poor report nearly 12 days of mental-health-related unplanned absences annually. Workers who report good, very good, or excellent mental health typically only have 2.5 days of mental-health-related unplanned absences. This results in an estimated $47.6 billion annually in lost productivity across the U.S. economy.4

The issue of missed work due to mental health can escalate beyond absenteeism; there has been an increase in workers citing their mental health as a reason for leaving a job. This is particularly true among younger workers. A Harvard Business Review survey revealed that 50% of respondents had left roles because of mental health concerns. The number was higher among younger workers: 68% of Millennials and 81% of Gen Zers have left roles for mental health reasons. This is an increase from a prior survey in 2019, in which only 34% of respondents cited mental health as a reason for leaving a job.5

Presenteeism. Presenteeism is defined as employers presenting for work despite illness or significant mental health symptoms. Presenteeism is associated with compromised job performance. Research on depression in the workplace shows that the symptoms of depression can interfere with completing physical job tasks about 20% of the time and reduce cognitive performance about 35% of the time. 6

Presenteeism can be more costly to businesses than absenteeism, which may be because it’s more common. Some studies estimate that presenteeism costs employers 10 times more than absenteeism. Workers with mental health symptoms may not call out from work because of their emotional state, but they may not be fully engaged when they come in. This can result in underperforming on work tasks. In turn, that can shift a greater burden onto other workers, who may feel additional stress themselves.7

Safety Risks. In industries like construction, employees struggling with attention or task completion can pose a safety risk. In an industry where workers are at greater than average risk for falls, chemical exposure, heavy exertion, and exposure to moving mechanical parts, safety must be a paramount concern. 8

Construction workers are no less prone to mental health concerns than workers in other industries, but they are less likely to seek help through work. In a 2021 survey, 17% of respondents indicated they were willing to discuss mental health with their supervisors. Only 18% were willing to talk about mental health with coworkers. They cited reasons for this reluctance, including shame and stigma (78%), fear of judgment by peers (77%), fear of negative consequences (55%), and lack of access to care (46%). 9

The mental health struggles among construction workers can have especially dire consequences. According to government reports, men in the construction industry have one of the highest suicide rates of any profession. 10 The rate of suicide among construction professionals is about four times higher than the general population. The CDC advocates for construction industry workplaces to increase mental health awareness and promote suicide prevention measures for workers.11

Costs to Employers

Employers face consequences when employees struggle with unmanaged mental health conditions. Workplaces see direct costs associated with lower productivity and absenteeism. In addition, mental health conditions increase the prevalence of physical conditions, such as heart disease, metabolic disorders, and substance abuse disorders. This leads to higher healthcare costs.12

Workers struggling with substance abuse present even more complex concerns. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that workers with substance use disorders take nearly 50 percent more days of unscheduled leave compared to their peers. In addition, workers with substance use issues have a 44 percent higher turnover rate than the rest of the workforce as a whole.13

In 2021, the National Safety Council published a report showing:14

  • Healthcare costs for employees experiencing mental distress are nearly $3,000 more per year than their peers.
  • Absenteeism due to mental illness costs employers an average of $4,783 per employee per year.
  • Mental health issues can be associated with employee turnover, leading to turnover costs of approximately $5,733 per affected employee.

What Is Mental Health First Aid?

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is an international education program certified by the National Council for Mental Wellbeing. It’s training that people in many fields can undertake, especially for healthcare providers. MHFA training gives individuals the tools to identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders.

MHFA-trained healthcare professionals who see workers for unrelated reasons are trained to identify signs of mental health conditions during routine interactions. They can open a discussion with the worker to better understand the scope of the concerns. They can then encourage the worker to get further help from a mental health professional and guide them toward resources where that help is available.

An MHFA-trained professional is qualified to:

  • Recognize signs/symptoms of mental illness
  • Recognize signs/symptoms of substance use
  • Engaged in active listening, empathy, acceptance, and encouragement
  • Provide reassurance through de-escalation techniques and calming language
  • Offer relevant information
  • Provide information on available professional help and refer people to appropriate professional services and resources

Healthcare professionals are often ideal MHFA providers. Workers who might be hesitant to discuss their health and wellbeing with a coworker or supervisor might be more comfortable discussing it with a healthcare provider. Speaking with a clinician assures workers of confidentiality and judgment-free conversation.

How Employers Can Integrate Mental Health First Aid Into Workplace Wellness

Many people don’t seek prompt treatment for mental health conditions. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the average delay between symptom onset and treatment is 11 years.15 Employers have a unique opportunity to encourage workers to address mental health symptoms instead of struggling with them.

Workplace wellness programs provide a valuable entry point for essential health services. A holistic wellbeing program gives employees easy access to wellness coaches, dietitians, clinicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals.

A successful wellness program might combine a series of on-site workplace wellness events, such as health screenings and wellness education opportunities where workers can engage face-to-face with healthcare professionals. In addition, access to coaches, dietitians, or other healthcare professionals off-site or via virtual platforms means workers can get wellness services as needed.

Employers can infuse wellness programs with a mental-conscious focus by contracting with providers who are MHFA-credentialed. This ensures that their employees are receiving high-quality healthcare services from professionals who can also identify and triage mental health or substance use crises.

For example, a clinician performing a health screening can engage a worker in a conversation about mental state or substance use. These conversations can reveal ways employees might benefit from additional services. An MHFA-trained clinician is equipped to suggest the next steps.

Ramp Health Can Help

Ramp Health is a proven leader in providing workplace wellness and risk mitigation services. For 20 years, we have delivered exceptional outcomes through our comprehensive services. We have a nationwide network of 25,000 experienced, credentialed healthcare professionals, including MHFA-trained wellness coaches, registered dietitians, acute care responders, clinical staff, and health condition management experts.

We combine a full range of clinical and well-being capabilities, including a digital platform, to provide integrated wellness solutions that produce measurable results. Our services deliver increased employee engagement, population health risk improvements, workplace injury reductions, and employee satisfaction.​

To learn more about how Ramp Health can connect your team with MHFA-trained wellness professionals, contact us today to learn how we can offer mental health support at your organization.


  1. National Institute of Mental Health. “Mental Illness.” January 2022,
  2. OHSA. “Workplace Stress.”
  3. Greenwood, Kelly, and Anas, Julia. “It’s a New Era for Mental Health at Work.” Harvard Business Review, October 4, 2021.
  4. Witters, Dan, Agrawal, Sangeeta. “The Economic Cost of Poor Employee Mental Health.” Gallup. November 3, 2022.
  5. Greenwood, Kelly; Anas, Julia. “It’s a New Era for Mental Health at Work.” Harvard Business Review. October 4, 2021.
  6. Lerner D, and Henke RM. “What does research tell us about depression, job performance, and work productivity?” J Occup Environ Med.
  7. Smith, Sandy. “Presenteeism Costs Business 10 Times More than Absenteeism.” EHS Today. March 16, 2016.
  8. Helmick, Nichole and Petosa, Jeremy. “Workplace Injuries and Job Requirements for Construction Laborers.” Bureau of Labor Statistics, November 2022.
  9. “New Report: In Construction Industry, Concern for Mental Health Is High, but Willingness to Discuss.” – New Report: In Construction Industry, Concern for Mental Health Is High, But Willingness to Discuss Is Low.” September 29, 2021.
  10. “US Department Of Labor, Industry Leaders, Stakeholders Call On Employers, Workers To Combat Surge In Construction Worker Suicides.” August 24, 2021.
  11. McCleery, Trudi; Earnest, Scott; Socias-Morales, Christina: Garza, CDR Elizabeth. “Partnering to Prevent Suicide in the Construction Industry – Building Hope and a Road to Recovery.” CDC. September 9, 2020.
  12. NAMI. “Mental Health by the Numbers.”
  13. U.S. Department of Labor. “Benefits of Recovery-Ready Workplace Policies.”
  14. National Safety Council. “New Mental Health Cost Calculator Shows Why Investing in Mental Health Is Good for Business.” May 13, 2021.
  15. ​NAMI. “Mental Health by the Numbers.”