Behavioral health solutions in the workplace

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Mental health is an important aspect of work and life, and mental health disorders are among the most burdensome concerns in the United States, with high rates of poor clinical outcome and treatment costs upwards of $186 billion annually.

With 71% of adults in the U.S. reporting at least one symptom of stress or anxiety in 2016, it is no surprise that mental health — or illness — impacts the workplace. Employees suffering from mental health conditions can have decreased job performance, engagement, productivity and difficulty communicating with others. In fact, depression interferes with a person’s ability to complete physical job tasks about 20% of the time and reduces cognitive performance about 35% of the time.

It’s no secret that these issues are prevalent. Addressing mental health in the workplace can help employers reduce health care costs for their business and employees. This can be done in several ways.

Raise awareness

One of the most important actions an employer can take to diminish the stigma of mental illness within the workplace is raising awareness.

Partner with HR to explore internal awareness campaigns, including promoting employee assistance program (EAP) services. Inviting community or regional mental health leaders for lunch-and-learn educational sessions may be a good starting point. Engage your leaders for suggestions on what teams need regarding information and stress management. Be sure to identify what resources are available to employees who start talking about their mental health issues. You’ll want a clear road map for your employees for what to do if they hear others are in distress. Priority Health offers employer group members a toolkit that includes messaging and materials to help educate employees on behavioral health and provide solutions for them. Employees will feel more comfortable seeking help when they feel that they work in a safe environment that understands the importance of behavioral health.

Encourage support and treatment

If you’re part of a large company, chances are you have EAPs. These provide policies to support or treat the personal issues surrounding employees and their immediate families. Usually an extension of your HR department, EAPs intervene to tackle issues such as substance abuse, money troubles or childcare. The more robust your company’s EAP offering, the more likely your employees have mental health options to help them navigate things like stress, anxiety and burnout. Learn more about your own EAPs and communicate their importance to your employees — and if you don’t have EAPs in place, consider starting one for mental health.

Check health benefits coverage

If you’re not up to date on the mental health options covered by your health benefits, take time to catch up. Most health plans today offer various coverage, programs and services to help your employees maintain good mental health. Our lives are busier than ever managing day-to-day work and family commitments, balancing what we need to do with what we want to do and juggling everyday curve balls, so the use of technology to help manage our mental health has increased. Priority Health members throughout Michigan have access to behavioral health virtual care through Spectrum Health Now, which gives employees access to expert, private, timely and convenient non-emergent behavioral health care for depression and other mental health symptoms. From online resources to over the phone to on-site, you may be surprised at the amount of help you can get from your insurance provider.

As an employer, it’s important to have a vested interest in the mental health of your workforce and ensure employees of all ages have access to the help they need to be happier, more productive employees.

Jeff Greshak, LMSW, ACSW, is the director of behavioral health at Priority Health with over 25 years of experience in the behavioral health and social work industries. He earned his Master of Social Work (MSW) from Grand Valley State University.

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