Employee Mental Health is Worth Billions


If you’re not watching Billions on Showtime, binge the first season now, and tune in on Sunday nights.

A vital (though perhaps unintended) part of the taut, no heroes-no villains story is a message about what a well-trained mental health professional can do for a company and its employees.

Dr. Wendy Rhodes is integral to the ridiculous success of Bobby “Axe” Axelrod and his firm, Axe Capital.

Sure, Dr. Rhodes is married to Axe’s arch-nemesis and she and Axe get naked together, but hear me out …


While many of the things written about Dr. Rhodes identify her as a performance coach, she is Axe Capital’s in-house psychiatrist and psychotherapist. She is treating patients’ diagnosable mental illnesses and ensuring unbelievable (if only vaguely legal) success for the company.

She is a kick-ass, one woman employee assistance program.

Though outlandish for the sake of drama, she’s a good model for what every company can and should provide.

The World Health Organization puts estimates of the annual global cost of mental illness at $2.5 trillion per year. By 2030, it will be $6 trillion.


For perspective, the entire world spent $5.1 trillion on all healthcare in 2009.

Imagine having $2.5 trillion more to spend on education.

Imagine giving $2.5 trillion to No Kid Hungry.

Imagine how much closer we could get to putting people on Mars with $2.5 trillion.

Imagine having a piece of that $2.5 trillion—even a small one—as part of your retirement plan or for your kid’s college tuition.

Imagine your company keeping its part of that $2.5 trillion by spending it on an expertly-trained, in-house mental health staff. You could have instantly accessible, high-quality mental health care as part of your benefits package.

Axe may not be your kind of guy, but he’s good with money.  He doesn’t send his people out into the wilderness of the healthcare system; he invests directly in their care, and makes a killing doing it.


But, why should private companies invest in mental health?  Shouldn’t governments do that?

Sure they should, but governments move slowly. Private industry can move much faster.

And there’s always the old (apocryphal) Willie Sutton answer: “Because that’s where the money is.”

If there’s any truth to Billions—and let’s face it, the show is compelling because there is—private investment in employee mental health could make us all wealthy in money, body, and mind.

In the real world, it would look a lot different than it does at Axe Capital—fewer ethical conundrums and less latex (yes, you heard me)—but companies would see tremendous returns on direct investment in employee mental health.  And not all of them would have to offer their in-house mental health staff a Maserati, though that couldn’t hurt.

Billions is on Showtime at 10:00 PM on Sundays and is available all the time at Showtime On Demand.


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