How to encourage employees to use mental health benefits

Employers can do better when it comes to educating employees on the use of the mental health resources available to them – a message that is especially important given the increased stress employees face as a result of the pandemic. persistent COVID-19, according to human resources advisers.

As employees choose their benefits for the upcoming year during enrollment season and take time to reflect on the year ahead during the vacation, they can be receptive to communication about health benefits. mental underutilized.

Demystifying the EAP offers

Communicating about the benefits offered and how they can be used is the first step, ”said Kara Hoogensen, senior vice president of specialty benefits at Principal, a global financial investment management and insurance company.

Employers can highlight how Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) work by providing examples of the types of support EAPs offer and the value they can provide, as well as describing how they can be used, including she declared.

“Often, employees think that these services are only available for crisis situations,” noted Hoogensen. “However, the benefits of the EAP can help employees overcome stress and anxiety related to general concerns they face, such as work / life balance, bill payment, or health issues. It is also important to emphasize the confidential nature of mental health programs accessible through an EAP so that employees feel more comfortable using them. ”

Despite growing concerns about mental health and increased interest in mental health resources, EAPs remain unrecognized by many employees.

“Some don’t even know they have access to these benefits,” Hoogensen said. “Communicating often about EAPs and other benefits, whether through digital and mobile channels, or otherwise, keeps the conversation going. Keeping an ongoing boost on employee sentiment through surveys and one-on-one meetings with managers is also helpful. “

Retain workers

Mercer’s HR Consulting
Health on demand
The report, based on a global survey of 14,000 employees earlier this year, shows that:

  • 42% of employees with access to mental health benefits said they were more likely to stay in their current organization than if they did not have these resources.
  • 44 percent of those without access to mental health benefits said they did not feel supported by their employers.

In the United States, where 2,000 workers were interviewed:

  • 59% of employees said they felt some level of stress, and a quarter said they were highly or extremely stressed, the highest percentage among the 13 countries included in the survey.
  • 48 percent of employees rated employer support for mental health as very or extremely valuable.
  • However, 40 percent of employees said it is difficult to find and access quality mental health care. Among the low-paid, that number rises to 47 percent.

The ability to virtually access mental health care, including virtual visits with a counselor or therapist and digital support tools and resources, has become a valuable option for many employees, Mercer reported.

“With significant shifts in attitudes towards the sustainability of mental health and digital health care over the past year, employers need to evolve their health strategy to reflect a modern workforce that values ​​flexibility. , choice, a caring culture and digital access to support their health and well-being. “said Kate Brown, director of the Mercer’s Center for Health Innovation.

Prevailing conditions

In another mental health survey, 91% of a total of 421 award professionals in large North American organizations said mental health issues and substance use disorders among workers had increased over the course of time. the pandemic.

These findings were reported by the International Foundation for Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP) in its
Mental health and substance use disorder benefits: 2021 survey results report.

“Mental wellness was a big challenge before the COVID-19 pandemic, and concern is only growing as our worker populations face the continuing unknowns of the pandemic,” said Julie Stich, CEBS, vice -President of content at IFEBP. “Employers are striving to connect effectively and deliver benefits to employees, ranging from offering more digital tools and facilitating peer support groups to expanding training initiatives in mental health crisis. ”

Specific mental health benefits that are growing in popularity include access to online resources and tools (offered by 87% of respondents) and telepsychiatry treatment sessions (72%).

When asked about the prevalence of several mental disorders / substance use disorders, the top five problems (either “very” or “prevalent”) reported by employers, based on aggregate data, were:

  • Depression (52 percent).
  • Anxiety disorders (49 percent).
  • Sleep deprivation and sleep disturbances (32 percent).
  • Attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (23%).
  • Alcohol addiction (17 percent).

Articles related to SHRM:

Don’t let mental health support weaken after the pandemic,
SHRM online, November 2021

Parity in mental health: don’t be left behind by the cold,
SHRM online, December 2021

Support mental health in the post-pandemic workplace, SHRM online, May 2021

About Evelyn C. Heim

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