employers should take the reins of mental health

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Many employers feel like they’re already helping, but employees don’t agree

There is no doubt that the collective mental health of the country has suffered over the past few years, but the question going forward is who should ultimately be responsible for getting people back on track.

Clearly, much of the onus is on the individual to seek their own care, and many have done so: the demand for mental health services has exploded over the past two years, to the point of exceeding supply. The government has also done its part, with the rollout of the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline in July, which it says increased calls by almost 50% in just one month.

However, there is another major player that should step up, Karen S. Lynch, president and CEO of CVS Health, said in an op-ed this week: employers.

“Business leaders have a huge role to play here. They have the opportunity to not only do the right thing for their employees, but also to serve as a catalyst for change in the way mental health is recognized as a a daily health concern,” Lynch wrote.

She had three tips for employers on how to effectively engage their employees on mental health, including being transparent and open. This means that leaders of organizations should discuss their own mental health issues, so that their employees are more comfortable doing so as well.

“…the quality of resources only matters if we lead by example, talk about mental health issues directly with our employees, and ensure they feel comfortable using the resources Business leaders should be comfortable talking openly with their employees about their own mental health, whether in a large team meeting or a one-on-one conversation. “Wrote Lynch.

This, she believes, will allow employees to be more open about their own struggles.

His second piece of advice was for employers to increase access to mental health care, noting that CVS Health had about 20,000 virtual mental health visits before the pandemic and 20 million in 2020 and 2021.

“We must continue to break down barriers so people can easily find the right resources to get the care they need, whether online or in person. It can also help reach populations, like young adults, who might be more comfortable. talk about these types of issues in a virtual setting,” she wrote.

Finally, she believes employers should encourage peer support, so employees can learn from each other to get help. For example, CVS Health offers co-worker support groups, publishes a quarterly mental wellness resource guide for its leaders and managers, and it has implemented a program for employees to voluntarily share inspiring stories about the company intranet site on how they overcame personal mental health issues.

“Now is the time for us to start leveraging the mental health awareness that the pandemic has brought with it and making the most of our hard-earned lessons. We need to take these daily conversations about well-being and turn them into action reality,” concluded Lynch.

A disconnect between employees and employers

What Lynch advocates is already happening, as employers are already doing more than they did before the pandemic.

That includes expanded coverage: A 2021 Kaiser Family Foundation Employer Health Benefits Survey released last November found that 31% of employers were expanding the ways enrollees could get mental health or addictions services, such as telemedicine, and that 16% of employers were developing new resources, such as an employee assistance program for mental health services.

However, employees are increasingly becoming burnt out, with a report from Indeed earlier this year revealing that 52% of all workers feel burnt out, up 9% from a pre-COVID survey.

There is also a disconnect between how employers think they are doing and how their employees perceive it; a survey released earlier this month, commissioned by Modern Health, found that 85% of employers believe they actively listen to employees’ needs, and 81% of employees believe they invest enough in their employees’ mental health. employees, while 85% of employers said their employees felt seen.

Employees in that same survey, however, had a very different opinion: only 51% said they felt their employer actively listens to employees’ needs, and 46% believe their company invests enough in their mental health. Only 59% of employees said they felt seen by their company and colleagues for their unique contributions at work.

The survey also found that business leaders are not doing what Lynch advises them to do by being open about their own struggles, as 80% feel they are expressing their own mental health vulnerability, but only 30% of employees agree. with that.

The most disturbing figure in the report is that 72% of employers fear that focusing on mental health could have an adverse effect on return on investment, meaning employees will work fewer hours to take care of their mental health. , rather than viewing it as a net benefit. when it comes to workplace productivity.

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(Image source: ibmadison.com)

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