The survey results couldn’t be much of a surprise to any of us.
Conducted by a company called ComPsych, a provider of behavioral health and well-being services, it found that 87 percent of employers say the mental health of their employees is one of their biggest concerns at the moment.
“The mental health issues emerging from this period of prolonged stress need to be addressed now,” Dr. Richard Chaifetz, founder, chairman and CEO of ComPsych, said.
“Pandemic stress is contributing to widespread mental exhaustion, negative health impacts and unhealthy behavior changes.”
Yes, indeed. It’s almost impossible to find anyone on the planet at the moment who hasn’t seen some degree of that in perhaps a family member, a coworker or themselves.
And yet, we also know that when workers are struggling to manage their mental health, they often don’t ask for help from their employer or seek outside services. Instead, they try to push through it.
The reasons for this are fairly clear.
First, some workers worry that if they disclose their struggles to their employer, there is a risk that the information will leak out.
While mental health conversations aren’t as taboo as they have been, employees continue to worry about the stigma associated with mental illness. They worry that their work relationships or even that their jobs will be at risk.
There’s also the problem of a shortage of mental health professionals – a shortage aggravated by increased demand for these services during the pandemic.
Mental and behavioral health care services also can be costly; depending on where you live, an hour-long therapy session can cost anywhere between $65 to $250. Add in costs for medications and suddenly reaching out for help becomes a financial hardship for many.
All of this has a direct impact on business. In fact, the American Psychological Association’s 2021 Work and Wellbeing Survey showed 44 percent of American workers plan to change jobs in the coming year for a variety of reasons but particularly stress.
The good news here is that more employers are recognizing that productivity losses related to mental health conditions can actually exceed the cost of effective treatment.
Creating a Stigma-free Workforce
There are a number of ways employers can tackle all of this.
For starters, employers need to ensure that their workplace is stigma-free. It is counterintuitive to offer mental health benefits if employees feel as if they will be judged for using them. Mental and behavioral health experts recommend the following actions:
- Educate employees about the signs and symptoms of mental health disorders. This can be accomplished in part by encouraging managers and leadership to share their experiences with mental health to reduce the stigma.
- Encourage employees to talk about stress, workload, family commitments and other issues. You can make this happen by creating support groups as a way for workers to share among colleagues who may be facing similar challenges.
- Invest in mental health benefits and be sure to inform employees about the mental health supports that are available to them through their health insurance and workplace programs.
- Help employees transition back to work after they take leave.
Evaluating Current Mental Health Benefits
Employers should also evaluate their current mental health benefits to make sure they are sufficient for employees to receive needed care. The following questions should be asked of their insurance carriers:
- Do they offer readily accessible mental health information through employee educational programs, their website or self-screening tools?
- Do they have a toll-free number for your employees to call for help with personal, family or work issues?
- Is there a sufficient number of available, in-network providers who are trained in screening for and treating depression, anxiety and substance abuse disorders?
- Can they integrate their services with your EAP, disease management and disability benefits? Integration results in better coordination of care for employees and can save employers time, effort and money.
- Are pharmaceutical benefits sufficient enough for employees to be able to afford needed medication?
As you consider your options, remember that, before introducing new benefits, it’s important to understand how current offerings are being utilized to find potential gaps. As with any benefits changes, it’s crucial to share those updates with employees so they’re aware of all available resources. Educating employees to take more ownership of their mental health and well-being helps reduce costs for them and the organization overall.
Contact us today to learn more about what’s working and how to develop an employee benefits strategy that meets your employees’ evolving mental health needs.
The Mahoney Group, based in Mesa, Ariz., is one of the largest independent insurance and employee benefits brokerages in the nation. For more information about group employee benefits plans, contact us online or call 480-730-4920.
This article is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel or an insurance professional for appropriate advice.