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The costs of mental illness are real

Tim Gouw

An estimated 195,000 people are employed within the city limits of Wichita. And combined, those people – myself included – are costing their employers nearly $1.4 billion dollars in lost productivity due to untreated mental illness every year. This is to say nothing of mental health issues being the cause of up to 40% of all job turnover in the city, along the with associated recruiting and training costs incurred by companies already struggling to find qualified applicants.

The costs of mental illness are real. The money that we as taxpayers spend subsidizing law enforcement agencies, hospital emergency rooms, and prisons could instead be used to build roads or improve schools. Your employers could pay less taxes and instead raise your salaries or offer better benefits. So why is that not happening?

The answer to that question largely stems from a general unwillingness to admit our need for mental health care. We worry what our supervisors or co-workers will think if they hear words like depression or anxiety disorder. So we keep it quiet and we let accounting deal with the $7,000 annually that our silence costs our company and this city.

No matter how large or small, how broad or specific a mental health organization is, their number one priority should be to remove the persistent stigma of mental illness. Raising the level of education and understanding regarding mental health pulls back the curtain on a topic that remains unjustifiably shrouded in the Wichita community. And there are many ways that all of us can help. Consider reaching out and offering your time, talent, and treasure to these organizations today.

Eric Litwiller has served the south central Kansas community through his work at Mental Health Association since September of 2017. As Director of Development and Communications, he is charged with seeking the private investment required to raise awareness of the scope of mental health concerns throughout the region in an effort to eliminate the unfair stigma associated with mental illness.