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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 espyr.com.

The Cost of Sexual Harassment and Assault

From charges against Harvey Weinstein, to the #MeToo movement, to the contentious confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, sexual abuse and harassment have become – finally – elevated issues in our society.photo of Brett Kavanaugh

While these events have led some workplaces to make changes to address sexual harassment through policies and victim support, it’s not yet clear how many companies have or will make the larger reforms necessary to truly keep workers safe. Meanwhile, for survivors, the costs of coming forward have not lessened – according to her lawyer, Christine Blasey Ford continues to receive death threats and is unable to return to her home.

But there is another cost associated with sexual harassment – the economic burden caused by the combined the loss of workplace productivity, medical costs, criminal justice fees and property loss and damage.

$263 Billion a Year

Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated in 2016 that the national economic burden due to rape and sexual harassment that year was between $100,000 and $200,000 per victim, or a total of $263 billion. It’s likely that the CDC’s figure is highly underestimated given that so many cases of rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment go unreported.

A recent article by Rebecca Greenfield and Janet Paskin takes a closer look at these costs, and the issues, especially as they relate to the workplace.

“These types of events definitely cause both psychological and physiological harm. People may not sleep well. They may have more depression and anxiety. They may get headaches,” says Lisa Kath, an associate professor of psychology at San Diego State University who studies workplace harassment. “And it’s all intertwined: If you’re not sleeping well, you’re not thinking well.”

The effects can show up right away, in medical bills and sick days. Or they can manifest years later.

“Three quarters of employees who experience harassment never tell their managers or HR” 

Society for Human Resource Management

The Greenfield and Paskin article refers to a study of more than 3,000 women, where researchers found that those who said they’d experienced childhood or adolescent sexual violence had healthcare costs 16% higher than women who didn’t have that experience – decades after the event occurred.

The point is not that sexual violence, abuse and harassment are expensive (although they are). The point is that these things cause damage in life-altering ways we rarely consider.

The Life-Altering Costs

Three-quarters of employees who experience harassment never tell their managers or HR, according to a survey from the Society for Human Resource Management. But they will – and do – quit their jobs.

Greenfield and Paskin point to one of the only studies that looked at the effects of sexual harassment on women’s careers over time, published in the journal Gender & Society in June 2017, researchers found that women who have been sexually harassed at work are six-and-a-half times more likely to leave their jobs than women who haven’t.

When women do leave, they tend to land in positions that pay less, not more, seeking out spaces where they’re less likely to get harassed. This means they land in less lucrative fields or positions – a negative economic impact that persists through the rest of their working years.

Victims are also put into the position of having to protect their future reputations. Speaking up can be “career-trajectory altering,” says Joni Hersch, an economist at Vanderbilt University who studies employment discrimination. “If you are known as that girl who complains, even informally, about ‘boys will be boys’ behavior, will you have the same opportunities to form connections that will eventually be valuable in the workplace?”

Time for Accountability

Many women say they don’t report sexual assault or harassment because they’re afraid no one will believe them. There’s a long-standing myth that women make false reports in order to hurt men. As a result, we’ve been loath to hold men of any age accountable – until recently.

As Kavanaugh and Blasey Ford prepared to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, comedian Bill Cosby was sentenced to 3 to 10 years in prison for drugging and assaulting Andrea Constand in 2004. Bill Cosby photoShe waited a year to tell anyone about it, and it took an additional 10 before he was charged with a crime.

Over the past year, sexual harassment and assault abruptly shifted from something men could get away with to something they maybe can’t. At the same time, more women are revealing their abuse stories and offering much-needed support for their sister victims.

It’s a cultural shift that is long overdue.

What Companies Can Do

Outside the workplace, there’s little more that company leaders can do besides take a public stance against all forms of sexual assault and harassment. Within the workplace, however, they can do quite a bit to protect employees and reduce costs – both in dollars and in life-long effects on the victims. They can institute the right programs and provide appropriate support. We suggest any organization take the following steps:

  • Understand this topic is a significant risk management issue for employers.
  • Create a clear sexual abuse and harassment policy and communicate it clearly to your employees.
  • Train managers and employees so they know what to look for and understand the costs.
  • Regularly encourage employees to ask for help.
  • Make access to medical and behavioral health services easy and confidential through a comprehensive employee assistance program (EAP) or, for universities, a student assistance program (SAP).
  • Consult with subject matter experts for further programming ideas.
  • Take complaints related to harassment seriously and support the victim.

As a leader in behavioral health, Espyr is frequently called upon to help our clients and their employees deal with sexual harassment and assault issues. For more information on how Espyr can help your company deal with these issues, or any other behavior health issue, call Espyr at 866-570-3479 or go to espyr.com.

 

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 espyr.com.

 

Suicides On The Rise: What Can Employers Do?

Earlier this year, we endured a one-two punch of the suicides of fashion icon Kate Spade and author/TV personality Anthony Bourdain.   As always happens following celebrity suicides, a barrage of TV, news and social media stories followed exploring, in intricate detail,  how they died and what led up to their fateful decisions. Unfortunately, these tragedies – and the ever-present news coverage – often lead to more of the same. In a study published by the International Journal of Epidemiology, media reports of suicides of well-known figures can trigger suicides in viewers and readers. When someone struggling with mental health issues sees that someone with similar issues responded to that suffering by killing themselves,  “It puts death on the table”, says news site Vox.

But these stories can also have a positive effect; they can cause employers concerned about the physical and mental health of their employees to evaluate their healthcare plans and determine if they’re doing enough.

Causes of Suicide

While the cause of suicide is not known, it most often occurs when the stresses of life exceed the coping abilities of someone already suffering from a mental health condition. In these cases, at these moments, stressors and health issues converge to create strong feelings of hopelessness and despair, something that seems impossible to overcome through any other method than death.

Most people who actively manage their mental health conditions go on to engage in life. Regrettably, it’s more common for those conditions to go untreated. Depression is the most common risk factor associated with suicide, and it’s often one that is undiagnosed or untreated. Other risk factors include anxiety, substance abuse, bipolar disorder and a family history of suicide.

Any of the conditions mentioned, especially when unaddressed, increase the risk for suicide.

The Cost of Suicide

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shares the latest statistics on suicide, and it’s not good news. Here are just a few of the startling facts:

  • Since 1999, suicide rates in the U.S. have risen nearly 30%.
  • Almost 45,000 Americans die each year by suicide – about 123 per day.
  • For every documented suicide, there are 25 suicide attempts.
  • Suicide costs the U.S. $69 billion annually in medical costs and work loss.

To make matters worse, since the stigma surrounding suicide leads to underreporting, the CDC estimates these numbers to be higher.

The Employer’s Role

Those employers who currently provide some sort of behavioral health counseling benefit – better yet, a comprehensive Employee Assistance Program (EAP) – are already going in the right direction. Same with school administrators providing a Student Assistant Program (SAP). Their employees (or students) have a place to go when they feel the need to seek help.

More comprehensive EAPs and SAPs, however, don’t stop at basic counseling. Some offer early suicide identification services and 24/7/365 intervention. Others conduct suicide prevention training activities on location or, in the aftermath of a suicide, critical incident trauma responses to help the rest of the community deal with their feelings.

Of course, many people in need don’t seek help. They’re worried about confidentiality, they fear their mental health conditions may jeopardize their employment or they believe “things will just work out.”

At Espyr®, we offer an industry-first Interactive Screening Program (ISP) that provides employees and students with a convenient, anonymous way to connect with a qualified counselor about available service options through their EAP – and address their concerns before they escalate. Here’s how it works:

  1. Employee/Student visits the anonymous ISP website
  2. Takes a brief stress and depression questionnaire
  3. Receives a personal response from an EAP counselor
  4. Exchanges messages with counselor – asks and learns about available services
  5. Gets feedback and encouragement
  6. Requests an appointment or referral

Offered in association with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the program has been especially effective. As one participant put it, “I was finally able to let someone know how badly I was feeling without any judgement.”

If you’d like to learn more about how you can help your employees (or student population) deal with feelings of suicide – or any other behavioral health issue click here.

 

 

 

Suicides On The Rise: What Should Employers Do?

As always happens following celebrity suicides, the deaths of fashion icon Kate Spade and author/TV personality Anthony Bourdain have led to a barrage of TV, news and social media stories exploring how and why they died complete with as many details as possible. Unfortunately, these tragedies – and this coverage – often lead to more of the same. In a study published by the International Journal of Epidemiology, media reports of suicides of well-known figures can trigger suicides in viewers and readers. When someone struggling with mental health issues sees that someone with similar issues responded to that suffering by killing themselves, says news site Vox, “It puts death on the table.”

But these stories can also have a positive effect; they can cause employers concerned about the physical and mental health of their employees to evaluate their healthcare plans and determine if they’re doing enough.

Causes of Suicide

While the cause of suicide is not known, it most often occurs when the stresses of life exceed the coping abilities of someone already suffering from a mental health condition. In these cases, at these moments, stressors and health issues converge to create strong feelings of hopelessness and despair, something that seems impossible to overcome through any other method than death.

Most people who actively manage their mental health conditions go on to engage in life. Regrettably, it’s more common for those conditions to go untreated. Depression is the most common risk factor associated with suicide, and it’s often one that is undiagnosed or untreated. Other risk factors include anxiety, substance abuse, bipolar disorder and a family history of suicide.

Any of the conditions mentioned, especially when unaddressed, increase the risk for suicide.

The Cost of Suicide

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) shares the latest statistics on suicide, and it’s not good news. Here are just a few of the startling facts:

  • Since 1999, suicide rates in the U.S. have risen nearly 30%.
  • Almost 45,000 Americans die each year by suicide – about 123 per day.
  • For every documented suicide, there are 25 suicide attempts.
  • Suicide costs the U.S. $69 billion annually in medical costs and work loss.

To make matters worse, since the stigma surrounding suicide leads to underreporting, the CDC estimates these numbers to be higher.

The Employer’s Role

Those employers who currently provide some sort of behavioral health counseling benefit – better yet, a comprehensive Employee Assistance Program (EAP) – are already going in the right direction. Same with school administrators providing a Student Assistant Program (SAP). Their employees (or students) have a place to go when they feel the need to seek help.

More comprehensive EAPs and SAPs, however, don’t stop at basic counseling. Some offer early suicide identification services and 24/7/365 intervention. Others conduct suicide prevention training activities on location or, in the aftermath of a suicide, critical incident trauma responses to help the rest of the community deal with their feelings.

Of course, many people in need don’t seek help. They’re worried about confidentiality, they fear their mental health conditions may jeopardize their employment or they believe “things will just work out.”

At Espyr®, we offer an industry-first Interactive Screening Program (ISP) that provides employees and students with a convenient, anonymous way to connect with a qualified counselor about available service options through their EAP – and address their concerns before they escalate. Here’s how it works:

  1. Employee/Student visits the anonymous ISP website
  2. Takes a brief stress and depression questionnaire
  3. Receives a personal response from an EAP counselor
  4. Exchanges messages with counselor – asks and learns about available services
  5. Gets feedback and encouragement
  6. Requests an appointment or referral

Offered in association with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the program has been especially effective. As one participant put it, “I was finally able to let someone know how badly I was feeling without any judgement.”

If you’d like to learn more about how you can help your employees (or student population) deal with feelings of suicide – or any other behavioral health issue – call Espyr at 866-570-3479 or click here: espyr.com.