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The Sting of Workplace Stigma

February 1, 2010
by Gary Enos
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We may have health insurance parity legislation, but it still might take some time for substance use disorders to be seen as less stigmatizing in the workplace than other illnesses. A thought-provoking survey released last week by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) indicates that the need for addiction treatment still produces high levels of anxiety among employees fearing a loss in workplace status.

The survey of 1,129 individuals found that 76% believed they would suffer damage to their work status if they sought treatment for drug addiction, while 73% believed their work status would suffer if they sought treatment for alcoholism, HealthDay News reported. By comparison, the percentages were 62% for depression, 55% for diabetes and 54% for heart disease.

In reaction to the findings, the APA’s Partnership for Workplace Mental Health offered several suggestions for employers to be proactive in encouraging workers to take care of their health needs. Included in the recommendations is specific reassurance to employees that the confidentiality of their health information will be protected.


Comments me, that means initiation of benefit/risk communications that can also mean inclusion of "re-entry" protocol in detail as a part of the day one Tx/Rx regiment.

SAMSHA, NIDA, NIH, and the many other sub-links to the government's willingness to account for mental-medical health disorders, chronic or otherwise in the same breath as physical-medical health disorders. There is already a wealth of plausible choices that are prepared, published, and waiting to be considered - implemented.

As one person who has and IS still living through the consequences of co-occuring psychological and poly-substance dependency, the stigma caused by my own illness is best addressed, by me personally, as each Tx and living event unfolds. I am fortunate that my pre-illness training, education, and professional experiences have regenerated to a point of personal initiative on their own. However, for every one like me, there are at least 60 out of every 100 sufferers who will require an assessment of individual awareness, hope, desire, and motivation to continue therapy beyond basic assessment, Tx, and Rx of their own condition.

Mental health recovery must include complete diagnosis (which parity might deal with immediately), and simple, consise, and achieveable Tx plans which include more than funding justification for a "3-7 day detox 10 day inpatient w/90 day IOP or even a 28 day residential plan," etc.

Once we overcome professional stigma of ours being an intangible profession one that "ONLY" evidence of improved professional success will be the result of extending the mindset of our efforts (publically, personally, and then professionally) to include time and therapy provisions in every diagnosis for restoration of those whom we treate or the reconciliation of what has been damaged and often appear to be totally destroyed.

What has been destroyed or damaged beyond personal comprehension with many of the conditions that are treated, is the idea that once remission and recovery begin, the sufferer will somehow, of his/her own volition be able to just pick their lives where it left off at and live totally free of the temporary or permanent damage to their own self, their family and friends, or their work, and finally within the community.

Life will not go on happily forever-after for many sufferers, ESPECIALLY after initial remission and recovery begins without continued and continual improvement of the living skills that once were taken for granted as rudimentary or unconsciously re-activiated, or, in a growing number of cases, have never been taught in childhood. This reality incompasses even those with the best histories or "social" profiles.

Unfortunately, I have written too much already, and have not even pricked the surface of the blight of this issue.

Gary Enos


Gary Enos

Gary A. Enos has been the editor of Addiction Professional since its inception. He also...

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