The Top 5 Questions Every Employer Needs to Know to Meaningfully Change Workforce Mental Health and Wellbeing

Mental health issues in the United States, including conditions such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse and suicide, continue to rise at an increasingly alarming rate. US sees 60% increase in mental health needs post-COVID, with 1 and 3 US adults1 report symptoms of anxiety and/or depressive disorder. Unfortunately, there simply aren’t enough mental health professionals to support everyone who needs their help.

Now is the time to promote and provide a wide range of evidence-based mental health resources, starting with the workplace. Employers must play a part in the solution by providing employees with health services that take into account the whole person, from the physical to the mental. To accelerate the fast-paced progress we need, here are five questions employers and benefit plan sponsors should ask when considering and implementing mental health services for their employees.

#1: How can employers ensure individuals have access to support despite the current shortage of mental health professionals?

There is an incredibly high demand for mental health services, but there simply aren’t enough health care providers to help you. In fact, 50 million American adults suffered from some form of mental illness in 2022.2, but more than half received no treatment for their conditions. Even those who ask for help may not be able to get it, with an average wait time of six weeks for behavioral health services. Beyond your employees, their families are also struggling – 60% of young people with mental health needs go untreated3.

Fortunately, there are plenty of easily accessible solutions to offer your employees, including self-guided digital programs and coaching services that can be a great first step for those with mild or subclinical symptoms or conditions. This may not only be a faster option for some, but may also free up mental health professionals who need to focus on people with clinical or more serious illnesses.

Plus, offering multiple virtual solutions to your employees – including digital programs, coaching and therapy – in a square increases access fivefold.

#2: What can HR leaders do to provide stronger care options while considering the cost implications?

When evaluating the effectiveness of mental health programs against the costs incurred, it is important to consider all factors beyond the initial dollar signs. Providing a wide range of mental health services can be an investment, but it can make all the difference for your employees and your organization as a whole.

Currently, 1 in 4 Americans must choose between mental health treatment and daily necessities4. This has a profound impact on their wellbeing, which in turn impacts your organization. In fact, people with unresolved depression experience a 35% reduction in productivity.5. In many cases, even lower-cost interventions, such as digital programs or coaching, can help individuals realize clinical benefits.

To implement cost-effective services that will truly move the needle for your employees, take a guided approach to care. Offer services and programs that provide the right mix of initial support and measure progress over time. This personalized and proactive approach to mental health care can also help your employees get help sooner, which is especially important for conditions like anxiety that often have a slow onset and can easily go unnoticed. By proactively engaging your employees with the reliable, quality mental health care they need, you can prevent progression to more costly and complex conditions.

#3: How can employers make mental health more accessible?

Due to the stigma surrounding mental health, the complexity of the health care ecosystem, and confusion about the type of care they need, seeking mental health services can be overwhelming for many people. 61% of people seeking mental health care agree it’s hard to even know where to start6.

Accessibility starts with dedicated human support. A coach can be instrumental in guiding individuals through their journey, supporting them every step of the way to offer guidance and encouragement. Surveys have shown that over 80% of individuals prefer to have a dedicated coach7. By having someone support them throughout their journey, people complete three times more support activities on their own, which helps maintain progress and improvements over time.

#4: How can virtual mental health solutions help improve health equity for disproportionately affected populations?

According to an article published in Harvard Business Review, “Economically and socially marginalized groups often have higher rates of chronic disease and greater preventable morbidity and mortality – but they also have lower rates of primary care service utilization. or mental health8.” In total, mental health disparities in the United States contribute to $278 billion in excess costs9.

Virtual care can be a great mental health equalizer. Regardless of geographic location, virtual solutions can provide access to a larger and more diverse pool of mental health resources and professionals. It also opens the door to more culturally congruent support that may not be available to people in or near their city.

Additionally, digital programs and coaching, which avoid service fees, can alleviate financial barriers that can prevent or delay people from seeking care. Additionally, integrated interpreter services can help mitigate language barriers to enable a high-quality care experience.

#5: How can an integrated care approach impact employee health and well-being?

Mental health issues can compound the challenges of living with a chronic illness and even put people at higher risk of developing them. An integrated approach to physical and mental health care helps identify risks and interventions earlier, avoiding downstream losses in cost and productivity.

Addressing co-existing conditions holistically makes it easier for individuals to achieve their health goals. An integrated approach that offers a wide range of services – primary care, mental health, chronic disease management, etc. – helps identify the mental health needs of a broader population and amplifies clinical outcomes for some of your most expensive populations, such as those with certain conditions.

It’s never too late to evaluate your current mental (and physical) health services and programs. By understanding these five key trends, you are one step closer to successfully implementing high-quality, integrated healthcare solutions that can have a significant impact on your employees and your organization as a whole.

The Top 5 Questions Every Employer Needs to Know to Meaningfully Change Workforce Mental Health and Wellbeing

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