Positive Employee Mental Health Program

Updated May 2021. Originally posted September 2019.

The topic of mental health awareness has grown over the years. We are learning more about the effects of mental health in the work place and how it relates to productivity. Even before the pandemic, according to a study by Mental Health America, about one in five Americans lived with a mental illness at some point in their lives. These conditions that affect people during their prime working years have a tremendous effect on one’s ability to fully participate in life – both at home and in the workplace.

In the past, employers had very limited mental health benefit choices to offer their employees. Those choices have expanded exponentially over the years, giving employees a greater number of options to maintain their overall mental health. Employers are now investing more in wellness programs that promote or help manage mental health and their surrounding triggers.

Here are some growing trends and ways employers can aid employees in dealing with their mental health needs:

Financial Wellness

Worrying about personal finances can be a major trigger factor for an employee’s mental health and can carry over into the workplace. Employers are now acknowledging the effects of this particular stressor and offering ways to help their employees manage their finances better. Employers are starting to offer educational seminars in financial planning/retirement advice to providing student debt resources.

To start your organization’s financial wellness program, start by checking with your retirement plan broker to see if they offer affordable resources to your employees. Often times, a representative from the brokerage company can come in to give a presentation on basic investing tips or give advice on how to save for retirement. Over the past few years, there has been a rise in organizations adopting student loan repayment plans (SLRPs). This benefit allows employers to make monthly student loan payments while the employee is making regular payments.

Teletherapy – Telemedicine

Teletherapy, or telehealth, is a growing trend for organizations who want to help their employees during stressful times in their lives. Employees are able to access a licensed therapist usually through an app on their phone at any time and anywhere. Teletherapy benefits are often lower in cost than seeing a therapist in person. If your organization is looking to implement a teletherapy benefit, start by checking with the organization’s health care broker. They may already work with some vendors. You can also look into vendors such as TalkSpace or BetterHelp who offer employer benefit programs. Employers can offer discounted or free teletherapy services to their employees.

Mental Health Awareness

Mental health wellness programs are increasing overall with organizations. While these concepts are not new, employers are promoting these programs more. There is also a growing trend of offering stress management wellness programs, since unmanaged stress can lead to mental health issues. There are simple ways to implement these stress management wellness programs into the workplace such as offering fitness classes, healthy snacks that can be either placed in the office or delivered to people’s remote workspaces, or flexible schedules and telecommuting options.

Meditation programs

A good way to promote mental health awareness is to allow employees to set aside time away from their desk to meditate or clear their head during stressful periods. Headspace is a subscription-based phone app that provides guided meditation sessions. This company also has employer-based plans, which would be an affordable benefit to offer employees.

Employee Assistance Programs (EAP)

Employee Assistance Programs are work-based intervention programs designed to help employees solve major life issues. These programs are often sponsored through a life insurance policy and are free to employees. Employees can turn to EAPs for issues such as substance abuse, marital issues, financial education, how to cope with a loss in their life, and mental health issues. EAP services are confidential and a good way for employees to seek help. Employers should check with their insurance provider or broker to find out more on EAPs and how employees can access the benefit.

Health Insurance

Health insurance coverage is another way of offering cost-effective mental health services for employees. Depending on your group plan, insurance carriers can cover a wide range of mental health services from wellness programs to psychotherapy treatment. Consider offering an employer-funded health reimbursement arrangement (HRA). Sometimes, psychotherapy sessions are not covered by insurance or if it is covered by insurances, there may not be many therapists found in-network. An HRA benefit is a great way for employees to pay for therapy sessions, out of network therapy costs and other medical expenses.

While most employees are not shy about going to the dentist or a doctor if they have a cold, they probably don’t think about addressing mental health needs. Make mental health awareness a priority for your organization and remind employees of current benefit offerings.

The more open dialogue there is on the topic, the more comfortable your employees will be to seek help during difficult times in their lives. Encouraging and promoting mental health will foster a happy and healthy working environment.