If only it were this easy — and cheap

June 19, 2014

Jenine Koziolek

By Jenine Koziolek, outreach specialist

In Charles Schulz’s classic Peanuts comic strip, Charlie Brown once went to Lucy for psychiatric help — she was only charging 5 cents, after all. Charlie to Lucy: “I have deep feelings of depression. What can I do about this?” Lucy to Charlie, after a moment of pondering: “Snap out of it! 5 cents, please.”

Lucy’s advice to Charlie Brown, believe it or not, is not all that uncommon. Admit it, you have thought it, maybe even said it to yourself or a family member, maybe even a co-worker — “Just suck it up.” Exchange the problem for another issue, such as alcohol abuse, and let’s face it, just simply “sucking it up” without further intervention places a bandage on what could be a much larger issue. As easy and cheap as this type of advice is, it doesn’t typically give us the results we are looking for.

Alcohol problems affect employees in industries from manufacturing to information technology, from the boardroom to the shop floor. Alcohol costs American employers an estimated $176 billion annually in productivity losses, mostly due to missed work. As a result, the average company loses more than one-fourth of its profits through reduced efficiency of the problem user. With a relatively small investment in effective prevention and treatment for alcohol problems, employers can reduce costs and help employees.

Seventeen million adults have a serious problem with alcohol, yet only 3 million get help. Alcohol problems kill, sicken or injure hundreds of thousands of Americans every year, destroy families, contribute to violent crime and reduce productivity. It is estimated that by the time an individual actually seeks formal treatment services, he or she has lived in problem use for 11 to 13 years.

Having a drug-free workplace can decrease absenteeism, accidents, downtime, turnover, workers' compensation cost, employee discipline problems, and ultimately increase productivity, profits, customer satisfaction, health status and employee morale.

So, in the long run, expecting someone to simply “snap out of it” isn’t necessarily the most realistic expectation we can have. Perhaps that is why Lucy could only get away with charging 5 cents. Investing in our employees and our community means recognizing when someone is in trouble and intervening. Early intervention is not only an emotional cost savings, but it is an investment that promises better dividends than simply expecting the person to “snap out of it.”

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