If you’re an employer, the mental health of your employees may be costing you a lot more than you think. In fact, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services, mental health disorders are the most costly medical condition, costing businesses about $200B per year in healthcare expenditures, plus an estimated $225B in lost productivity.

One in five adult Americans – 41 million people – will experience mental health issues in any given year.  What makes mental health disorders more challenging for employers – and more costly – is the fact that more than half of those with mental health issues won’t seek treatment.  Employees often stay quiet due to the stigma of mental illness and concern that co-workers or supervisors will think poorly of them. There is still a perception by many that it’s acceptable and even encouraged to stay home from work if you’re physically ill, but not okay for mental illness. Concerns that having a mental health issue can affect career advancement can be very real in some companies, especially in some industries such as healthcare, transportation, law enforcement and education.

Nick Otto reporting in EBN, quoted Pamela Greenberg, president and CEO of the Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness. “The reason for these grim statistics is stigma,” Greenberg said, speaking at the World Health Care Congress recently. “People are afraid to say they have a behavioral health disorder and are scared to get treatment.”

 

What should an employer do?

Awareness and education through frank and open discussions and training is critical in removing mental health stigma, as we’ve reported previously in our blog on Removing the Stigma of Mental Health.

“Studies have shown that [more accepting] workplaces have happier employees with better productivity,” said Michelle Riba, a professor of psychiatry and the associate director of the University of Michigan Depression Center in an interview with Huffington Post.

Mr. Otto reports how General Electric took steps to ensure employees know that the company views no difference between an employee seeking help because of opioid addiction than if they had cancer.

Diana Han, chief medical officer at General Electric noted that employees engaging in mental health programs are returning to work at a faster rate than unengaged workers. “Days away from work has really been a big win for employees and our business,” she said.

 

It starts at the top

Employers need to get full support from their C-level leaders, added Don Mordecai, national leader for mental health and wellness at Kaiser Permanente.

“Having that kind of C-suite level support is important because you need to create a culture of safety,” he added. “Just going up to people saying, ‘This is ok’ is not going to make them feel safe in our stigmatized society. ”Workplace culture needs to be open to talking about mental health.”

 

Take a proactive, prevention oriented approach

Social  stigma around mental health won’t go away overnight. Another way for employers to address employee mental health is to approach it proactively rather than waiting and hoping that employees will step forward and seek treatment.  Espyr offers two innovative solutions that provide proactive and targeted outreach to employees with mental health issues.

Realyze™ uses an online behavioral health risk assessment to look across an employee population and identify issues like depression, anxiety, stress, PTSD and substance abuse. At-risk employees are connected with the appropriate licensed Espyr behavioral health professional, community health services, or the employer’s health plan if long term counseling is required.

An Espyr licensed health professional oversees the entire process, ensuring employees stay engaged, conducting follow-up assessments and increasing the likelihood of successful outcomes.

Realyze can complement existing employee assistance and wellness programs, increasing engagement in those programs, making them more effective and improving employers’ return on investment.

Another proactive, targeted solution is Spotlight®. Spotlight begins by putting employee healthcare claims and other third-party data through a proprietary algorithm, which identifies employees who are both at high risk of driving healthcare costs and most likely to engage in treatment. Those identified employees are connected with the appropriate Espyr licensed behavioral health professional. This one-two proactive approach allows employers to focus their healthcare spend where it can have the highest return, something not possible until now.

Spotlight also addresses comorbidity, the all-too-common occurrence of simultaneous mental and physical health issues. In fact, 29% of adults with a physical health issue have at least one mental health issue. When underlying mental health conditions are addressed, it’s easier to reduce the severity and duration of physical health conditions.

 

About Espyr

To learn more about Realyze, Spotlight or just to talk about how Espyr can help you improve the mental health of your organization, call 888-570-3479 or click here.