Creating a Stigma-Free Workplace
Creating a Stigma-Free Workplace
Although society has made significant strides to remove the negative association with mental health, more than half of individuals with a mental health illness will not seek treatment due to feelings of shame and the stigma surrounding mental health challenges. Mental illness causes individuals to miss more workdays than any other chronic condition, resulting in an estimated $326 billion per year in costs to U.S. employers from depression alone. The impact on business manifests itself in absenteeism, poor performance, low morale and additional health care costs .
Unsurprisingly, COVID-19 has only magnified these challenges. As the workforce considers the environment and culture to which they wish to return, there is no better time to enlist the appropriate resources to support your employees. According to the American Psychiatric Association Foundation, 80% of employees treated for mental illness report improved levels of work efficacy and satisfaction.
At its core, a mentally healthy workforce is linked to lower medical costs and absenteeism. It is essential to provide your employees with the resources they need to improve their mental health, resulting in cost-savings, retention and a morale boost for your organization.
Evaluating Current Mental Health Benefits
Evaluate your current mental health plan to determine if it offers sufficient employee care and identify potential barriers to care. Some questions to consider asking insurers include the following:
- Do they offer accessible mental health information through employee educational programs, their website or self-screening tools?
- Do they have a toll-free number for your employees to call for help with personal, family or work matters?
- Are there available in-network providers trained to screen for mental illness and treat depression, anxiety and substance abuse disorders?
- Can they integrate their services with your employee assistance program (EAP), disease management and disability benefits? Integration can result in better coordination of care for employees and save employers time, effort and money.
- Can employees easily afford needed medication through your pharmaceutical benefits?
- Are there opportunities to reduce or remove copays for in-network therapy visits on the health plan? Are there opportunities to pay for out-of-network services (therapy, in-patient treatment) at in-network rates?
- Are there opportunities to verify network adequacy?
- Are there opportunities to expand virtual or telemental health options?
- Could a Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA) be leveraged to support reducing costs associated with mental health?
How Can Employers Effectively Address Stigma?
Start the Conversation – You Are Not Alone
As previously outlined, mental health issues are prevalent and can be isolating. Consider sharing these five fast facts from Workplace Mental Health with your workforce to start a conversation. Bring in speakers and educators on the topic of mental health to allow employees to hear directly from others who experienced mental health conditions and went on to navigate the workplace successfully. NAMI is an excellent resource for finding local speakers.
Demonstrate Organizational Support
Develop a strategic, thoughtful communication campaign to raise awareness and encourage employees to seek help. Engage organizational leaders in tailored communications and messages of support or personal experience where possible. Provide training to managers and leaders within the organization. Training strengthens managers’ confidence and skill to address and direct employees to the right resources at the right time. Examples of training resources include the following:
- Employee Assistance Program Manager Training
- Notice. Talk. Act. At Work (NTA at work)
- Mental Health First Aid (MHFA)
Create a centralized location to house all resources and details on benefits and resources available to employees, accessible on-site and off. For example, Brown & Brown provides our customers access to a customizable benefits app that allows employees to access mental health and well-being benefits information and tools anytime, anywhere.
Evaluate if employees have on-site access to a quiet reflection or meditation space. By designing a physical space in your workplace to help promote mental health, you are sending the message that your organization supports taking the time for self-care. Additionally, review your company culture and practices around meeting scheduling, after-hours and weekend communications, and the use of paid time off (PTO). Address the areas that need improvement.
Employers can also provide benefits for financial services (e.g., short-term loans, debt reduction, etc.) and caregiver and childcare services and support, which could reduce stress at work and at home.
Develop Supportive Foundational Policies and Directives
Design and deploy flexible work and telecommuting policies appropriate for job responsibilities. Consider offering Mental Health Days or similar paid time benefits for mental health care. It is also important to focus efforts beyond anxiety and depression alone. Visit the Center for Workplace Mental Health for tips on ways employers can promote resiliency within the workforce, promote self-care and address isolation and loneliness.
Conduct an inventory of your vendor resources. After evaluating resources, promote, enhance or replace as appropriate to offer employees access to low-cost therapy or a similar program across the spectrum of emotional well-being.
There is no better time to recommit to positively addressing the mental health culture in your organization by destigmatizing challenges associated with it and creating healthy dialogue. For more information on developing a responsive and inclusive employee benefits program to address the mental health needs of your organization, contact us today.