Nobody quite knows why the 21st-century workplace seems to be so conducive to overwork, burnout and depression, but the global issue of mental health at work is reaching such proportions that it’s now dubbed the “trillion-dollar taboo.”

Is it the high-pressure culture of today’s marketplace? The prevailing social norms that make it shameful to show vulnerability? The “always-on” digital culture? It’s hard to pinpoint a single culprit, but the reality is this: Burnout is becoming a public health crisis that, beyond individual tragedies, now entails tangible large financial and economic costs: higher turnover in the businesses that are most affected, higher healthcare costs, and, of course, overall lower productivity ($1 trillion per year, according to the WHO).

Contrary to popular perception, burnout affects all sorts of employees in all sectors, not only those high-end achievers in industries prone to exceedingly demanding workplace cultures (such as tech, finance, consulting or law). To prove the point, in the UK, stress, depression and burnout amount to 44 percent of all work-related ill-health and account for 57 percent of all lost working days due to ill-health.

What can be done? The greatest impediment in addressing the issue of mental health at work seems to be the unreceptiveness of senior managers to have conversations about the problem. Therefore, companies need to put into place proper corporate mental health strategies and address the issue systemically—breathing exercises and the occasional yoga mat won’t cut it anymore. The wellness industry should rise to this challenge, pave the way, and demonstrate exemplarity.

2 thoughts on “The “Trillion-Dollar Taboo”: The Mental Health Crisis at Work”

  1. I am 84 years of age, born long before the coming of computers. For many years computers were used by just a few !

    Next came the Personal Computer and a huge increase in the number of users including the WWW.

    Yet what do we have today Smart Phones and Social .Medioa with children becoming deeply involved from the of three and perhaps even lower. The world of knowledge and communication has changed dramatically. It is difficult for me to grasp that these factors can be separated into the WORKPLACE, THE FAMIILY AND SOCIAL LIFE OUTSIDE.

  2. One thing that explains why the mental health issues at work are growing is the fact that our work pace is now faster than ever before. We are constantly exposed to information overload, with every piece of that information triggering some inner process within our mind. Naturally, this leads to more stress and mental health issues as people lack intrapersonal skills for dealing with those inner processes that get triggered.

    Historically the focus on mental health topics has been placed upon disorders and the cure, so today the majority of methods in psychology are focusing on intervention for a therapy setting and people lack proactive intrapersonal education. So, it is indeed quite alarming that the importance of workplace strategies for mental wellness has been massively overlooked in our workplaces.

    Solving the “trillion-dollar taboo” demands that we establish a new paradigm on how we see mental health and teach people how to nip those inner reactions to those “outside” triggers in the bud. We can arrive at a sustainable solution when we start to focus on prevention in all workplaces. Luckily this kind of proactive mental wellness approach exists. A few years ago, Dr. Helena Lass who is a psychiatrist specializing in proactive mental wellness, wrote a scientific paper “Developing Intra-Personal Skills as a Proactive Way to Personal Sustainability – The Preventative Side of the Mental Health Equation”, it brings forward a compelling argument for a proactive approach to mental health. You can find the scientific paper on Routledge homepage:

    As this scientific paper is behind a paywall you can familiarize yourself with the approach in this interview that Jenny Darmody conducted with Dr. Lass:

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