How To Manage Rising Employee Anxiety and Depression

A multitude of recent studies tell us that anxiety and depression are markedly higher now than in earlier eras.

For employers, the most common tool provided to employees suffering from anxiety, depression and other mental health issues is the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). EAPs have become almost universal in mid sized or larger American companies. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 85% of US businesses with 500 employees or more offered access to an EAP. Within larger companies, those with more than 5,000 employees, the percentage gets even larger with 97% reporting that they offer EAP access to their employees.

Yet, one of the most common complaints about EAPs is that they don’t get used. In fact, average utilization rates range from 4.5% to 6.5%.

The need for behavioral health solutions has never been greater

Stress and anxiety are increasing in workersAs the need for mental health solutions grows, one would expect EAPs to be used more frequently. Why isn’t that happening? Most experts point to several factors.

  1. There is still a stigma attached with mental health conditions.   For most people with a physical ailment, seeking help from a professional such as a doctor is the smart, socially acceptable response. However, ask that same person whether they’d seek professional help for a mental health condition and you’re liable to see a very different reaction. The stigma of mental health is still a very significant barrier for those needing treatment.
  2. There is concern for confidentiality. Could asking for help become noted in your personal file? Could it impact promotion opportunities? What if fellow employees learn about it? These are all understandable questions, and in some cases justifiable concerns.
  3. Despite the high prevalence, employee awareness of EAPs is often low, and awareness of the breadth of EAP support services offered is even lower.  Lack of awareness may be partially attributed to broker or insurance carrier provided EAPs – the free EAP – thrown in to sweeten a benefits package. Free EAPs may sound good, but in order to turn a profit a free EAP provider has to minimize utilization and reduce services. That means limited or no marketing to build awareness, limited management reporting, no on – site services or face-to-face sessions and a reduced level of support when employees call for help.

Organizations still need an EAP

This is not to say that EAPs don’t have value. They do, and most employers need to provide employees the services that an EAP can deliver.

Furthermore, there are many ways to increase EAP utilization rates and stand alone EAPs like those offered by companies like Espyr achieve much higher utilization than the average EAP.

Nonetheless, EAPs are reactive tools. They work only when employees engage. When employees don’t use the mental health services offered by their EAP the implications can be costly for both employers and employees.

Is there a better solution?

Sensing that something different was needed, behavioral health companies like Espyr have focused on new product innovation to address the growing need for more effective mental health solutions. Pilots are high stress occupationsHigh stress occupations in particular, like first responders, the military, airline pilots, healthcare, teachers and business executives are needy targets for such new solutions.

At Espyr, the need for an innovative solution resulted in the development of a new offering called Spotlight™. Rather than hope that employees with mental health issues step forward and ask for help, Spotlight uses big data analytics to proactively identify those employees posing the highest potential healthcare expense risk. Spotlight then cross-references expense risk with a proprietary tool that indicates likelihood to engage. The output enables employers to not only proactively address those posing the greatest expense risk, but empowers them to efficiently target those employees most likely to accept help.

Finally, Espyr connects those targeted employees with professionally trained, master’s degreed coaches from its national network of behavioral health professionals to create individualized solutions.

Mental health conditions and physical health issues frequently co-exist

Spotlight gets help to the employees that need it most while reducing productivity losses and absenteeism for employers. Furthermore, there is increasing recognition of the co- existence of mental health and physical health conditions.   This co-existence means that effectively addressing physical health conditions often requires addressing underlying mental health disorders. Failing to do so can lead to escalating healthcare outlays to treat chronic health conditions.

To learn more about Spotlight and see how it might help your organization, call us at 866-570-3479 or go to

Do Your Employees Know Where To Go In A Crisis?

You’ve done everything right. You’ve learned how much a comprehensive Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can help with employee health and wellness.   You know happier, healthier employees are more productive. You helped put together a quality EAP. And, after reading our article on building a more effective EAP, you’ve taken the time and energy to introduce the full spectrum of EAP services to your employees.

Now what?

The biggest challenge for any company offering an EAP (or any other employee health and wellness program) is getting employees to take advantage of the features when they need them. Employees have the information, but do they actually know what to do – or, more importantly, who in your organization to turn to – in case of a health or behavioral crisis? In most companies, apparently, the answer is no.

The research raises an employee health and wellness issue

The Standard is a leading provider of insurance and other financial products, and they recently commissioned research on the link between employee disability issues and employee productivity.

When employees were asked who they turn to in their company when they needed assistance, the answers weren’t as consistent as any of us would like.

In companies with 100 – 499 employees:

  • 44% went to their HR manager
  • 33% went to their direct supervisor
  • 18% went to both their HR manager and direct supervisor
  • 5% went elsewhere

To make things less clear, according to The Standard research, the size of the organization changed the results substantially. In organizations of 10 – 99 employees, as well as those with 2,500 or more, the direct supervisor was noted by employees as the dominant go-to.

This tells us that many companies – companies of all sizes – aren’t communicating or delegating a clear process or point of contact for employees when it comes to actually needing help. This confusion may be keeping some employees from getting the help they need. It could also lead to an overall negative experience or, even, a decrease in productivity.

For behavioral or mental health issues, since employees are already more reluctant to seek help in those areas versus a physical issue (see our article on removing the stigma of mental health), the confusion and negative effects may be even greater.

The research also provides the answer

Based on the research, employees that go to their HR manager first tend to have a more positive experience.

  • 73% of employees who worked with their HR manager felt they knew how to provide the right support.
  • 67% felt more valuable to the organization.
  • 73% felt more productive after the experience.

On the other hand, going to their direct supervisor brought up other issues.

  • 54% of employees felt uncomfortable discussing their health condition with their direct supervisor.
  • 60% said working with a direct supervisor made them concerned about losing their job.

HR managers were shown to be more able to help employees in other ways. In general, they are usually more aware of available resources, including EAP services, which is helpful to any employee seeking help. Here are our last statistics from The Standard supporting the HR manager as the choice for EAP manager – the EAP go-to – in any size company.

  • When working with HR, employees were more likely to receive helpful communications.
  • 44% of employees working with an HR manager returned to work faster than when they worked with a direct supervisor.

What’s in it for the HR manager?

Not only are HR managers in the best position to help with employee health and wellness issues, they can also help them in terms of the importance of their job and taking more pride in their work. According to an article from Human Resources MBA, an online guide for exploring and picking the best HR degree programs, “An HR manager who takes on the role of EAP manager is responsible for promoting the health and welfare of an organization’s most important assets.”

For more information on how we can help your company with employee health and wellness programs, call Espyr at 866-570-3479 or go to