Employer Solutions | 2 years ago

3 Ways to Improve Mental Health for Employees

More than 41 million Americans face mental illness in some form every year. Research shows that the direct and indirect costs of mental health issues actually can affect an employer’s bottom line more than physical health issues. 

Be Proactive In The Workplace

By Charles Rich Jr., MD, medical director, Carolinas HealthCare System’s HEALTHWORKS Division  Over the last several months, we’ve discussed the many ways chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, arthritis and diabetes, are the largest drivers of direct healthcare costs in the United States. However, another collection of health challenges can be just as costly in the long run.

More than 41 million Americans face mental illness in some form every year. Research shows that the direct and indirect costs of mental health issues actually can affect an employer’s bottom line more than physical health issues. While the hard costs of treatment may not be extremely high, hidden costs from lost productivity and absenteeism can hurt a company’s finances over time. For example, as many as one million people miss work every day due to workplace stress. In fact, when calculating indirect and direct costs, one study showed that depression can be the single most costly health condition in the workplace with anxiety also landing in the top five alongside obesity, arthritis and back and neck pain.

Invest in Employee Mental Health

A primary challenge in combatting mental health issues is that they remain largely hidden. In some cases, employees are not able to recognize their symptoms. In other cases, staff are afraid to ask for help for fear of being stigmatized in the office or losing their job. For employers, this should be concerning for two key reasons. First and foremost, this means employees within your company are suffering silently. Help is available but, for a variety of reasons, your team is hesitant to use those resources. Second, by letting these health issues linger, your company is facing increased costs that will only grow as time passes. The positive news is that there are steps every employer can take to help identify mental health issues and connect employees with treatments, favorably impacting the company’s bottom line in the process.

Recognize Mental Health Issues

While “mental health issues” describes a wide variety of conditions with distinctive symptoms, there are some common signs that indicate an employee needs assistance. Nervousness, restlessness, irritability, increased passivity, acting withdrawn or a sudden drop in productivity are all signals that someone may be wrestling with a mental health issue. If you notice this in one of your employees, or if one of your staff members raises a concern about a colleague, work with your HR team to reach out discreetly and offer assistance.

Offer Mental Health Treatment 

Employees often avoid treating mental health issues out of fear that they will be stigmatized or criticized for taking time away from work to seek help. As an employer, your first priority must be the health and well-being of your staff. Establish company policy that supports employees pursuing treatment — such as meeting with a counselor — for these sorts of challenges.

Provide Mental Health Resources 

When an employee has an ache or a pain, they know they can visit their primary care physician, an urgent care facility or the emergency room. For issues like anxiety, however, where to start and what to do can be more unclear. Make sure your company offers mental health treatment services, such as an employee assistance program (EAP). EAPs specifically handle personal challenges employees face that are not covered by traditional medical insurance. Make sure your HR team regularly updates staff on the EAP and mental health offerings, and that your company provides clear guidance on how to seek help if an employee is dealing with a mental health issue. Just as we have seen that providing preventive care offers a win-win for employees and employers in combatting chronic medical conditions, working together to help team members address mental health challenges also benefits companies and their staff.

Connect With Us

Does your company currently offer resources to assist your team with mental health issues? What additional resources do you feel you need to combat these issues? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter @HEALTHWORKS and on LinkedIn.