By Account Associate Kailyn Middlemist
Even with May—which is mental health awareness month—ending, it’s still worthwhile to talk about mental health in the workplace. Your employees are under a lot of stress, not only with work but also their home life, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and other issues of which you may not be aware. Their own struggles can compound work stress and create an unhealthy work environment, even if they’re working from home. Which is why it’s important to do everything you can to address workplace stress.
According to the CDC, 40% of American adults invited to participate in a study reported struggling with mental health problems. Furthermore, NAMI, the National Alliance of Mental Illness, reports that 60% of Americans dealing with mental health struggles did not receive treatment for their disorders in the last year. This lack of mental health care may arise from the stigma surrounding mental illness, a lack of resources available, lack of awareness of treatment options, or any number of other reasons. It incumbent upon employers to offer services directed at helping their employees cope with their stress, anxiety, depression, or whatever they might be struggling with, in order for employees to bring their best selves to work. The National Institute of Mental Health says that roughly 1 in 5 adults in the US live with a mental illness. This can include any different condition, ranging from moderate to severe. Additionally, the American Psychiatric Association reports “employees with unresolved depression experience a 35% reduction productivity, contributing to a loss to the U.S. economy of $210.5 billion a year in absenteeism, reduced productivity, and medical costs.” Mental health is a business issue.
In an article titled “What Employers Can Do About the Threats to Employee Mental Health” from Employee Benefit News, Charlotta Winslow-Jenkins writes:
“Even if employees recognize that they need help, it can be difficult to access the right support. Some employees may not know where to start, or they may discover that their coverage is insufficient for the care they need. Many employees are experiencing financial strain on top of years of increasing costs as their share of out-of-pocket healthcare spending grows. A high deductible, coverage gaps, and other consequences of shrinking primary care coverage can leave employees unable to afford mental health care when they are perhaps at their most vulnerable.”
It's important to note that many people who struggle with mental illness also struggle silently, with disorders that are most often invisible. They also struggle with the stigma that surrounds it. Fighting stigma should compel employers to be proactive, versus employees constantly having to self-advocate (for the most part). Asking for help can be difficult, and employees might feel more comfortable asking for resources if those resources have already been made available to them by employers.
In another Employee Benefits News article, Alyssa Place writes: “While 96% of employers think they are doing enough to support employee mental health, just 69% of employees feel the same, according to a recent report by Ginger, a mental healthcare platform. Ninety-two percent of employers say they have increased their focus on mental health during the pandemic, but just 57% of employees agree. […] Fifty-eight percent of managers say that talking about mental health makes them a better leader and 88% of employees say it helps them when their managers share their own mental health challenges, according to Ginger.”
The Leader’s Edge writes: “By some estimates, every $1 spent on mental health promotion yields a return of at least $3. The NAMI report found evidence-based treatments can reduce symptoms in disorders like depression and anxiety in as much as three quarters of patients. According to the report, effective treatment can improve productivity and reduce absenteeism, and early intervention with antidepressants can shorten disability by as much as three weeks.”
It's safe to say, then, that improving the availability of mental health resources can create not only a safer work environment, but a more productive and profitable one at that.
There are many resources a company can offer, including online therapy and mental health services like Ginger and TalkSpace. Ginger describes itself on their website as “reinventing mental healthcare by coupling data science and virtual delivery to provide immediate, personal support for anyone. Care through our on-demand mental health system is delivered through the Ginger app, available on iOS and Android, where members can conveniently connect with Ginger’s team of coaches – 24/7, 365 days a year. For those in need of additional support, a therapist or psychiatrist can be added to their care team. Ginger services.”
TalkSpace calls itself “the most convenient and affordable way to connect with a licensed therapist — all from the privacy of your device. Send your therapist text, audio, picture, and video messages at any time, and they will respond daily, 5x/week. If you are looking for the “face-to-face” therapy experience, we also offer Live Video Sessions so you and your therapist can plan to connect in real-time.”
In addition, employers can make sure the health insurance they offer provides good mental healthcare and showing support by posting about the importance of mental healthcare in office spaces and social media. They can also provide employees with the suicide hotline, which offers emergency help for those experiencing suicidal thoughts (1.800.273.8255).