Workplace Mental Health
Workplace Mental Health
Mental health is one of the key paths towards raising life satisfaction, improving health outcomes and fixing the U.S. healthcare system.
Poor mental health and inadequate diagnosis and treatment contributes to the relatively poor health outcomes in the U.S. and presents a significant opportunity for reducing total healthcare spending.
And due to the time we spend at work and interactions we have with our coworkers, the workplace is a key area for improving the mental health of American workers.
Anxiety, stress, and overall poor mental health drive turnover, poor productivity, and increased healthcare spending. The National Alliance on Mental Health estimates that untreated mental illness costs the U.S. up to $300 billion every year due to losses in productivity.
If an employer is self-funding their health plan, then it can directly benefit from reduced healthcare spending by improving the mental health of employees.
Companies that address the mental health needs of their employees experience reductions in turnover rates, a decrease in institutional claims, a decrease in health plan therapy and pharmacy claims, and employees show improved productivity.
Key Facts about Workplace Mental Health
Based on national data, about 80% of the people who die by suicide are of working age (18 to 65 years old). This means that the workplace is the most valuable system for suicide prevention, intervention and crisis response.
Employee anxiety, stress, and burnout drive up to 50% of annual workforce turnover.
Mental illness is the third most costly medical condition in terms of overall health expenditures, behind only cancer and traumatic injury.
The cost of mental illness is only expected to sharply increase, not decrease over coming decades.
Adults with at least one serious mental health illness die an average of 25 years earlier than those without serious mental health issues. The main causes of death are treatable or preventable physical health conditions. This is because unmanaged mental illness can lead to poor physical health, missed doctor appointments, missed symptoms, and poor lifestyle choices.
Employees suffering from mental health conditions experience 5 times as many absent days, are 5 times more likely to be on disability, have 4 times higher overall medical costs, and are 2 times more likely to quit or be fired.
What Can an Employer Do to Improve Their Employee’s Mental Health?
According to Workplace Suicide Prevention, referenced below under resources, there are 9 key practices to improving mental health among employees and reducing the risk of suicide:
Leadership: Cultivate a caring culture focused on community well-being
Job Strain Reduction: Assess and address the job strain and toxic work contributors
Communication: Increase awareness understanding suicide and reduce fear of suicidal people
Self-Care Orientation: Provide tools for self-screening and stress/crisis inoculation planning
Training: Build a stratified suicide prevention response program specialized training by role
Peer Support & Well-Being Ambassadors: Informal and formal initiatives
Mental Health & Crisis Resources: Evaluate and promote
Mitigate Risk: Reduce access to lethal means and address legal issues
Crisis Response: Accommodation, reintegration, and postvention
What Are the Key Areas for Addressing Mental Health Needs in the Workplace?
Employers can address these areas by working with a team focused on improving workplace mental health, through a combination of healthcare plan design and specialized mental health resources like employee assistance programs or EAPs.
Some key areas of focus for meeting the mental health needs of employees in the workplace include the following:
24 Hours / 7 Days a Week Mental Health Support
Employers can work with providers and resources that provide mental health resources and support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This commonly includes a health plan that includes telehealth services and an EAP that provides specially trained responders and clinicians to help someone in crisis, with a focus on helping someone find the help they need. This may be either immediate, direct contact with a clinician or addressing their current situation and directing them to in-person care either same day or soon after.
Management and Human Resources Consultation
Most companies have never thoroughly assessed how their workplace contributes to the mental health of their employees. How does culture, job stresses, job structure, and other factors either create or exacerbate the pressure on employees?
Consultation with management and HR can illuminate areas of opportunity to improve the mental health structure of your workplace.
On-Site and Online Mental Health Education
Mental health is traditionally a reactive field, springing into action once an individual has an outward symptom of distress or struggle. But we all know that mental health issues build over time and due to various factors, individual and environmental, contributing to events that finally bring attention to someone who has likely been suffering for quite some time.
Preventative medicine is one of the keys to improving health outcomes and preventative mental healthcare includes education and access to resources. Employers can create clear lines to educational resources for employees to learn more about their own mental health and what resources exist either in a crisis or when one of them feels they could be doing better.
Crisis and Suicide Prevention
Preventative medicine is one of the keys to improving health outcomes and preventative mental healthcare includes education and access to resources. Employers can create clear lines to educational resources for employees to learn more about their own mental health and what resources exist either in a crisis or when someone just feels like they could be doing better.
We can improve mental health in this country once we destroy the notion that one only needs help once they reach the point of suicidal ideation. Employers can help employees understand how preventative mental healthcare benefits them in more ways than just suicide prevention.
Postvention and Critical Incident Response
Postvention is psychological first aid provided to employees and others after an episode, either of an employee or an associated individual with an organization. This can also be extended to non-suicidal crisis events in an organization, and should be looked at with an open mind for when either the entire workforce or a segment of it is suffering due to an external event.
The American Association of Suicidology has a resource for managers entitled “A Manager’s Guide to Suicide Postvention in the Workplace” that provides 10 action steps in the aftermath of a suicide.
Resources for Workplace Mental Health
Workplace Suicide Prevention
This group calls on employers to implement the National Guidelines for Workplace Suicide Prevention. It is a partnership of suicide prevention leaders, including the American Association of Suicidology, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and United Suicide Survivors International.
Interactive Screening Program offered by AFSP
This tool connects individuals to mental health services before crises emerge. It’s an online program for mental health services at schools, hospitals and health systems, law enforcement agencies, and organizations and workplaces through their Employee Assistance Program (EAPs).
Concern Health AEP
Concern Health provides emotional wellbeing support for workplaces through an EAP. It provides a 24/7 call service for employees who are in crisis or have general questions, with licensed clinicians available if needed and who can stay on the phone with an employee or dependent through their episode. Concern Health started within El Camino Health and combines a variety of resources to help a workforce, including: 24/7 support, on-site & online education, critical incident response, life balance solutions, management & HR consultations.
Lyra Health AEP
Lyra is a newer entrant into the mental health field and is an equity-backed digital health tool. As an EAP, Lyra drives value for employers via happier, more productive, and healthier employees, and points to reduced health plan spending, increased productivity, and retention savings as main benefits of it’s EAP.
Complimentary Consultation for Workplace Mental Health
If you have questions or would like to know what mental health resources may be appropriate for your employees and organization, we offer a complimentary consultation with one of our benefits consultants to any employer looking to know more about providing best-in-class mental health resources for their employees.