Attitudes towards our collective mental health have changed considerably in recent years. Individuals and organizations are more comfortable than ever before talking openly about their mental health issues but what has become apparent from this, is how prevalent these issues are. This doesn’t just impact the health of our workforce and student population. It also impacts their overall performance.
1 in 5 US adults were experiencing a mental illness.1
1 in 3 US employees say their job has had a negative impact on their mental health over the past 6 mos.3
81% of employees surveyed agreed that how employers support mental health will be an important consideration for them when they look for future work.5
The latest figures from Mental Health America show that in 2019 – 2020, 20.78% of adults were experiencing a mental illness. That is equivalent to over 50 million Americans1. Additionally, factors such as inflationary pressures and the higher cost of living have further increased the stress burden many people have to endure on a day-to-day basis.
Similar figures are also reported worldwide. In 2022, the World Health Organization published research showing that in 2019, 1 in every 8 people around the world were living with a mental disorder, and that anxiety and depressive disorders were the most common. Initial estimates suggest that this figure rose considerably by 2020 to 26% and 28% respectively for anxiety and major depressive disorders2.
In honor of mental health awareness month, we recognize how important it is to take care of an individual’s mental health. We acknowledge that mental health issues will vary by industry or organization, especially for those working in high-stress environments such as first responders, or those going through critical times in their lives such as students.
Mental health issues may differ according to industry, job type or personal situation
According to new research from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 1 in 3 US employees say their job has had a negative impact on their mental health over the past 6 months. 30% said their job made them feel overwhelmed and 29% said it made them feel anxious at least once a week3. This can lead to lower job satisfaction, lower confidence, negative perceptions of work-life balance and a higher likelihood of seeking alternative employment.
What these numbers don’t account for however, is the fact that different work and employment situations, present different mental health situations.
In a list of 2023’s most stressful jobs, firefighters, airline pilots and police officers come second, third and fourth respectively4. First on the list was enlisted military personnel. The nature of these jobs means that the mental health issues they have to deal with on both a short and long-term basis may require a different approach.
Police and firefighters, for example, have to deal with the same day-to-day stresses that others do, but at the same time, they are also dealing with the intense stress and trauma that is involved in their line of duty. In the US, several states have proposed bills specifically addressing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) arising out of the course of employment6.
Mental health coverage should be considered equal to physical health coverage
Because our perception of mental health has come a long way, wellbeing concerns are now arguably more widely acknowledged and discussed than ever before, and many employees believe mental health coverage is as important as physical health coverage7.
Mental health is, therefore a highly valued benefit. Including mental health resources into employee benefits programs is one of the best ways companies and organizations can help their employees, members or participants address and mitigate their concerns.
Customized mental health benefits
Organizations looking to incorporate mental health support systems into their benefits packages in a more impactful manner should focus on confidential and customizable resources that offer in-the-moment support and expert guidance.
Support can be in the form of self-help services or face-to-face counselling to cover a wide array of issues that can impact mental health such as anxiety, depression, relationship problems, grief, substance abuse, anger management, work-related pressures, and trauma.
Some participants, particularly those in high-stress jobs such as first responders, may require long-term help for additional issues including addiction, problem gambling, child and elder care, financial or legal concerns, or PTSD.
Where someone is unable to do their job while receiving treatment for a mental or psychological illness, such as an airline pilot, having some level of income protection for, for example, temporary suspension or permanent revocation, is invaluable.
Bereavement and trauma counselling benefits for a student after an accident, or accidental death, could go a long way to helping them recover and get back to their studies sooner.
Education and training
Not everyone who needs it may ask for help, especially those in competitive or high-stress work environments. Educational resources that help managers and their teams recognize signs of mental health issues and have the confidence to broach these topics and act accordingly, will allow for early detection.
Different groups of people may also be more confident about speaking out than some others. Diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) should therefore be considered when incorporating, promoting and providing access to mental health services within an organization.
Considering all these factors could result in a mental health problem being addressed before it becomes a crisis.
Mental health benefits give your organization the advantage
In the latest American Psychological Association (APA) survey, 81% of respondents agreed that how employers support mental health will be an important consideration for them when they look for future work and 71% believed their employer is more concerned about employees mental health than they were in the past5.
In this era of less stigma and more openness about mental health issues therefore, giving your members, participants or employees access to mental healthcare benefits is very highly valued. Such benefits can cover a wide variety of mental health and wellness issues and can also be tailored to specific situations and job types.
Job seekers and other professionals are increasingly looking for employers that view mental health as equal to physical health. In so many businesses and organizations, your people are your most valuable asset. Supporting those who work for, and with you, in this way will not just help with retention, morale and overall performance, but it can also be an effective recruitment strategy as well.
How companies can help
Employers can support their employees in a holistic way and have a powerful impact on their businesses and the broader community. An example is an employee assistance program (EAP) that provides short-term assistance and resource support from work life specialists. These specialists help with a full range of personal, family and work life concerns.
Administration and funding for mental health services may be difficult for some employers. Many supplemental insurance plans recognize the importance of this type of service and may make them available as part of their value-added services.