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Why Mental Health Matters in the Workplace

Want to improve mental health in the workplace? Including mental health coverage as part of a benefits package is only part of the solution. Learn more about expanding access to services and building a more inclusive work environment.

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The mental health crisis is serious and far-reaching. Each year, 1 in 5 American adults experience symptoms of mental illness.

But many of those same people are unable to access adequate mental health services like therapy, counseling, and rehab. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, only 46.2% of people living with mental illness received treatment in 2020. And since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for mental health services has continued to increase as more people struggle with anxiety and depression.

When mental illnesses are unaddressed, people who are struggling are more likely to miss work or see their productivity slide. Recognizing this, about 68% of organizations plan to increase their mental health employee benefits over the next two years.

What’s the Importance of Mental Health in the Workplace?

When companies support their employees’ mental health by creating an inclusive company culture and expanding mental health benefits, they’re empowering workers to feel their best — and do their best work.

And the benefits of addressing mental health in the workplace can be profound. That’s because mental illnesses affect more than mood. Studies have shown that mental health is inextricably linked to physical health; depression has been tied to chronic illnesses like cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, asthma, and arthritis. The World Health Organization estimates that depression and anxiety cost the global economy $1 trillion per year in lost productivity.

Meanwhile, it’s well-established that a healthy workplace is a productive workplace. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points out, healthy and happy employees are less likely to call in sick. These employees are also more likely to engage in healthy behaviors outside of work, such as exercising or enjoying nutritious meals with their families. Companies that take the initiative to promote mental wellness among their employees are also helping to establish healthier communities.

What Are Some of the Barriers to Mental Health Access?

For many Americans, mental health access was a challenge even before the pandemic increased the demand for services. A shortage of providers — coupled with the fact that some do not accept insurance — can put this necessary treatment out of reach even for folks whose employers offer comprehensive benefits packages. Case in point: In 2017, nearly six times the number of visits to mental health providers were out of network compared with visits to primary care physicians.

Still, mental health benefits are among the most-requested benefits. In a 2021 report from Mercer, 42% of employees with mental health benefits said they were more likely to stay with their current companies than they would be if those benefits were not offered. Meanwhile, 44% of employees who do not have mental health benefits said they did not feel supported by their employers.

Addressing the Mental Health Crisis

One of the biggest things employers can do to foster mental wellness is to include mental health benefits as part of a robust package. To ease any issues caused by providers not accepting insurance, employers can empower employees to pay out-of-pocket healthcare costs by offering Paytient.

Other ideas for improving mental health in the workplace include:

  • Incorporating mental health into onboarding and annual training.
  • Updating PTO policies to allow for mental health days.
  • Providing scheduling flexibility to accommodate a better work-life balance.
  • Offering paid subscriptions to mental health and well-being apps.

Although the mental health crisis isn’t going away any time soon, there are opportunities to build up your employees and, in turn, bolster your business. Companies hoping to attract and retain top talent can do so by improving access to vital mental health services and fostering an environment where everyone can bring their best self to work.

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