Now is the time to promote and provide a broad spectrum of evidence-based mental health resources, starting in the workplace. Employers must play a role in the solution by providing employees with health services that consider the whole person, from physical to mental. To accelerate progress at the rapid pace 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 that 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 professionals to help. In fact, 50 million American adults will experience some form of mental illness in 2022two, but more than half did not receive treatment for their conditions. Even those who seek help may not get it, with an average wait time of six weeks for behavioral health services. In addition to their employees, their families are also struggling – 60% of young people with mental health needs are not treated3.
Fortunately, there are many readily 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 free up mental health professionals who have to focus on individuals with clinical or more serious conditions.
In addition, offering various virtual solutions to your employees – including digital programs, coaching and therapy – in one place increases access by five times.
#2: What can HR leaders do to provide more robust fulfillment options given 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. Offering 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 needs4. This has a profound impact on their well-being, which in turn affects your organization. In fact, individuals with unresolved depression experience a 35% reduction in productivity.5. In many cases, even low-cost interventions such as digital programs or coaching can help individuals achieve clinical benefit.
To implement cost-effective services that will really move the needle for your employees, take a service-oriented approach. 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 can also help your employees get support sooner, which is especially important for conditions like anxiety, which often have a slow onset and can be easily missed. By proactively engaging your employees with the quality, reliable mental health care they need, you can prevent the progression to more expensive and complex conditions.
#3: How can employers make mental health more accessible?
Due to the stigma surrounding mental health, the complexity of the health ecosystem, and confusion around the type of care they need, seeking out mental health services can be overwhelming for many people. 61% of people seeking mental health care agree that it’s hard to even know where to start6.
Accessibility starts with dedicated human support. A coach can be instrumental in guiding individuals along their journey, supporting them every step of the way to offer guidance and encouragement. Research has shown that over 80% of individuals prefer to have a dedicated coach7. By having someone support them on their journey, people complete three times as many support activities on their own, helping to maintain progress and improvement over time.
#4: How can virtual mental health solutions help improve health equity for disproportionately impacted populations?
According to an article published in the Harvard Business Review, “Economically and socially marginalized groups generally have higher rates of chronic disease and higher preventable morbidity and mortality — but they also have lower rates of utilization of primary care or mental health services.8.” In total, mental health disparities in the US contribute to $278 billion in cost overruns.9.
Virtual care can be a great equalizer for mental health. Unrestricted by geographic location, virtual solutions can offer access to a broader and more diverse set of mental health resources and professionals. It also opens the door to more culturally-conforming support that may not be available to individuals in or near your city.
In addition, digital programs and training that avoid fee-for-service costs can alleviate cost barriers that can prevent or delay individuals from seeking care. Additionally, integrated interpretation services can help alleviate language barriers to enable a high-quality care experience.
#5: How Can an Integrated Care Approach Impact Employee Health and Well-Being?
Mental health concerns can compound the challenges of living with a chronic condition — and even put people at greater risk of developing them. An integrated approach to physical and mental health helps identify risks and interventions earlier, preventing later cost and productivity losses.
Addressing coexisting conditions holistically makes it easier for individuals to achieve their health goals. An integrated approach that delivers a broad range of services – primary care, mental health, chronic condition management and more – helps identify mental health needs in a broader population and scales up clinical outcomes for some of your largest populations. cost, such as those with chronic conditions.
It’s never too late to evaluate your current mental (and physical) health services and programs. By understanding these top five trends, you are one step closer to successfully implementing high-quality, integrated health solutions that can tremendously impact your employees and your organization as a whole.