Mental health sign on workplace desk

30 Years of Change in Workplace Mental Health. What Do Employers Need to Be Doing Now?

October 2019 will mark Espyr’s 30th anniversary. Over those 30 years, we’ve witnessed significant changes in attitudes toward mental health, both by society at large and in the workplace.

We’ve evolved as well, changing from EAP Consultants, a company focused primarily on comprehensive Employee Assistance Programs, to Espyr, a leading provider of behavioral health solutions designed to maximize human and organizational potential.

Compared to our founding 30 years ago, people today are much more aware of the importance of mental health and more open to discussing personal mental health issues. Also, employers are increasingly including mental health benefits as part of their company’s wellness offerings.

Despite all the progress in mental health awareness and understanding however, the stigma of mental health persists. Some studies indicate mental health stigma is even worse now than in the past. Meanwhile, many employers, while they talk about the importance of employee mental health, have not taken the appropriate actions necessary to put mental health on equal footing with physical health.

To illustrate the point, let’s recap the state of mental health and, particularly, mental health in the workplace.

Awareness and Attitudes Toward Mental Health Have Changed

In many ways, people today have a better awareness and understanding of mental health and mental health disorders.

• According to a 2015 article in the Huffington Post, as recently as 1996, more than 50% of the US believed that depression was a sign of personal or emotional weakness. While this specific question has not been tracked over time, recent polls have asked whether seeking treatment for mental health issues is a sign of weakness. Less than 20% of respondents said treatment indicates weakness.

Another study in 2016 compared news stories concerning mental illness from 1995 to 2004, and from 2005 to 2014. Stories in which stigma or discrimination were mentioned as problems increased from 23% (1995-2004) to 28% (2005-2014).

• In a 1996 study, 54% of the US public attributed major depression to neurobiological causes; in 2006, this increased to 67%1. Similarly, the percentage of people endorsing the benefits of treatment by a physician for people with major depression went up from 78% (in 1996) to 91% (in 2006) 1.

• In another study of U.S. adults, only about 25% agreed that people are caring and sympathetic to people with mental illness 2.

Yet, Mental Health Stigma Still Exists

Just over 25% of US adults – one in four – will suffer from a mental disorder in any given year, including anxiety, depression, impulse control disorder and substance abuse3.

Yet, only about 20% of adults with a diagnosable mental disorder4 or with a self-reported mental health condition5 saw a mental health provider in the previous year. One of the major barriers to seeking help? The embarrassment associated with accessing mental health services.

In an article in May 2019, SHRM (The Society for Human Resource Management) noted a telling indicator of mental health stigma from a 2019 study done by Unum and the Disability Management Employer Coalition. In this study, 70% of employees who missed work due to mental health issues did not inform their manager that this was the reason. In the same study, 61% felt that there’s a social stigma in the workplace toward colleagues with mental health issues.

In fact, according to several studies, mental health stigma may be actually increasing.

In 2010, Pescosolido and colleagues assessed the stigma around mental illness by comparing findings from a 2006 survey with a similar 1996 survey. They reported an increase in stigma during the 11-year period, adding, “Our most striking finding is that stigma among the American public appears to be surprisingly fixed, even in the face of anticipated advances in public knowledge.”

Previously, the same researchers had compared the public perception of mental illness in 1996 with findings from a similar survey in 1950. They reported that, despite an increased understanding of the causes of mental illness by 1996, stigma had increased. This finding was also reflected in the 1999 Surgeon General’s report on mental health: “Stigma, in some ways, intensified over the past 40 years, even though understanding improved.”


Mental health sign on workplace desk

Mental Health in the Workplace

In the battle to combat mental health issues, the workplace is ground zero. Workplace wellness programs can identify at-risk employees and connect them to the appropriate treatment. These programs also have the means to help employees manage stress. In addition, by addressing mental health issues in the workplace, employers can reduce health care costs for their businesses and employees.

The stakes are high. Depression alone costs the US economy an estimated $210 billion per year, and a little under half of the cost is related to lost productivity in the workplace, according to Darcy Gruttadaro, director of the Center for Workplace Mental Health at the American Psychiatric Association Foundation.

According to the CDC, mental health issues impact the workplace in multiple ways:

Poor mental health and stress can negatively affect employees in terms of

• Job performance and productivity
• Engagement with one’s work
• Communication with coworkers
• Physical capability and daily functioning

Mental illnesses such as depression are associated with higher rates of disability and unemployment.

• Depression interferes with a person’s ability to complete physical job tasks about 20% of the time, and reduces cognitive performance about 35% of the time6.
• Only 57% of employees who report moderate depression, and 40% of those who report severe depression, receive treatment7.

Mental Health and Physical Health are Connected

Complicating things further, mental health issues often occur along with physical health issues, a phenomenon called comorbidity. 29% of adults with a medical disorder have at least one mental health disorder. And 68% of adults with a mental health disorder have at least one physical health disorder.

Comorbidity makes medical diagnosis and treatment more complicated and more expensive. The costs for treating people with comorbid mental health disorders and physical conditions are two to three times higher than for those without co-occurring illnesses. According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, more than 60% of the $210 billion annual cost of depression is actually going to treat medical conditions that often accompany mental health issues, such as diabetes and heart disease. In fact, it’s estimated that by combining medical and behavioral health care services, the United States could save $37.6 billion to $67.8 billion a year8.

What Leading Businesses are Doing

Unilever, American Express and Prudential are some of the many companies who are stepping up their efforts to improve employee well-being. These businesses have established comprehensive programs specifically designed to support employee mental health. Unilever also provides regular employee workshops on sleep, mindfulness and exercise, all of which have been linked to good mental health and psychological well-being.

General Electric has even taken steps to ensure employees know that the company views no difference between an employee seeking help for opioid addiction or an employee seeking help for 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.

Kaiser Permanente has developed a Mental Health, Wellness and Resiliency Strategy to support company-wide awareness of mental health issues, and to create a stigma-free environment.

Deloitte announced its first Chief Well-Being Officer, Jen Fisher, in 2015. Ms. Fisher launched Deloitte’s Mental Health at Work campaign, which provides mental health training, information and educational opportunities. Deloitte’s employee resource initiatives promote well-being, provide content on how to mitigate stress and practice resilience in the workplace.

Johnson & Johnson has created many internal employee resource groups and programs around mental health. The J&J Mental Health Diplomats – headed by Craig Kramer, J&J’s first Mental Health Ambassador – has recruited over 1,000 employees in 32 countries, and trained more than 350 employees in Mental Health First Aid. The company extends mental health services to employees’ family members, too, ensuring positive well-being beyond the workplace.

Lendlease conducted a global health assessment of its employees in 2013 and found that 16% were at high risk of developing depression. In response, Lendlease introduced Well-Being Leave, an initiative that allowed employees to take one day off every quarter to attend to their health and well-being needs. In its global headquarters, the company also established The Wellness Hub, a place for preventative care, resources and activities focused on employee well-being.

Is It Enough?

Despite these notable examples, there is still work to be done. Just over half of employees surveyed in one recent study stated they either had no mental health programs offered through the workplace or didn’t know if any such programs were offered.

Furthermore, to be effective in maintaining employee mental health, businesses need to train managers to recognize the symptoms and warning signs of mental health conditions. By at least one measurement, employers are falling short in this regard. According to findings released in May 2019, only 25% of managers in the US have been trained in referring employees to mental health resources.

What Should Businesses Be Doing?

Most mental health experts will agree that there are three primary areas where employers should focus their mental health actions:

• Raising overall awareness of the importance of mental health and ending the attached stigma
• Changing the culture
• Improving access to mental health care

In an earlier Espyr blog (Removing the Stigma of Mental Health), we described a number of steps businesses should be taking to increase awareness, remove mental health stigma and increase access to care.

1. Your EAP is the most powerful weapon in your arsenal to combat mental health stigma and increase employee access to help. While this is certainly the case if you have a comprehensive EAP, it may not be true with a “free” or low-cost EAP that came bundled or embedded in a disability insurance product. These “EAP with purchase” products generally provide an EAP in name only; their business model only works if employee engagement is minimized, so they will be unlikely to serve any meaningful role in creating employee engagement.

2. Education and visibility are critically important. Your EAP should be very willing and adept in helping to build awareness and educate your employees. Initiatives we’ve seen work include:

• Hosting lunch-and-learns and guest speakers on behavioral health topics in the workplace
• Offering a monthly topical webinar to educate employees and normalize behavioral health issues
• Providing educational newsletters
• Providing special presentations to educate managers and supervisors about key mental health issues: mental health first aid, suicide prevention, PTSD awareness and substance abuse (including the opioid epidemic)

3. Promote awareness of the EAP and easy access to behavioral health treatment services at company benefit fairs.

4. Create a culture of acceptance, and make sure that it starts at the top. “Having full C-suite level support is important because you need to create a culture of safety,” says Don Mordecai, national leader for mental health and wellness at Kaiser Permanente. “Just going up to people saying, ‘This is okay’ is not going to make them feel safe in our stigmatized society. Workplace culture needs to be open to talking about mental health.” For example, when speaking to employees about medical benefits, include behavioral benefits and issues in the conversation, thereby normalizing behavioral health. Also, incorporate language in company policies to prevent stereotyping and eliminate improper labeling or bullying of employees with behavioral health challenges.

5. Develop a peer support program to train employees to assist distressed co-workers and encourage them to access provided professional behavioral health services.

Helping employees feel comfortable talking about mental health and developing a culture of support is a good start. But these steps are only worthwhile if employees have adequate access to care. Some suggestions we provided in our blog, Removing the Stigma of Mental Health, included:

1. Provide access to an interactive screening program, allowing employees to anonymously take a screening test for stress, depression and anxiety. Then, if they wish, enable them to speak with a behavioral health professional to understand their screening results and, if needed, connect them to the appropriate form of assistance – a therapist, psychiatrist, treatment program or self-help or support group. Espyr offers just such a behavioral health solution, called REALYZE™. REALYZE includes a screening program, as well as a review of the results with a professional, licensed mental health coach. Employees are then connected with the appropriate intervention resources, which could be the employer’s existing health plan. Espyr’s mental health coaches oversee the entire process to ensure more positive outcomes.

2. Larger companies should consider placing behavioral health clinicians on-site at workplaces to assess, refer and provide short-term counseling. A 2015 survey by the The National Association of Worksite Health Centers claims that 45% of all employers offer some sort of on-site health clinic. Adding a behavioral health clinician to these clinics is a natural wellness extension and further helps normalize the concept of mental health.

3. As behavioral health professionals, let your EAP partner help you draft policies that permit employees to leave work to keep behavioral health or EAP appointments. Structure benefits and policies knowing that many areas are underserved in terms of psychiatrists, so alternatives to psychiatry may be needed.

Espyr is Leading the Way

At Espyr, we’ve recognized the changes in mental health awareness, attitudes and our client’s needs over the past 30 years. In addition to providing one of the most comprehensive EAPs that employers can find anywhere, we’ve enhanced our product portfolio with new groundbreaking behavioral health solutions to help employers address the well-being needs of their employees.

• Products like Spotlight and REALYZE work to proactively target at-risk employees and deliver greater engagement, productivity and retention, while reducing healthcare expense.

• Our newest offering, Fit To Pass, provides coaching support and a customized plan to help professional drivers overcome barriers and challenges to achieving better health, especially when it comes to passing their DOT re-certification exams. This program is just as effective for law enforcement or any other occupations that require physical exams as a condition of employment.

To learn more about how Espyr can help your employees and your organization achieve their full potential, please call us at 888-570-3479.



1. (Pescosolido et al., 2010)
2. (Kobau, DiIorio, Chapman, & Delvecchio, 2010).
3. (Kessler, Chiu, Demler, & Walters, 2005)
4. (Wang et al., 2005)
5. (Hennessy et al., 2012)
6. Lerner D, Henke RM. What does research tell us about depression, job performance, and work productivity? J Occup Environ Med. 2008;50(4):401–410.
7. Dewa CS, Thompson AH, Jacobs P. The association of treatment of depressive episodes and work productivity. Can J Psychiatry. 2011; 56(12):743–750.
8. Melek SP, Norris DT, Paulus J, Matthews K, Weaver A, Davenport S. Potential Economic Impact of Integrated Medical-Behavioral Healthcare: Updated Projections for 2017. Milliman Research Report. Seattle, WA: Milliman, Inc.; 2018.

Workplace mental health issues

Celebrities Step Up To End The Stigma of Mental Health

In a recent National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) article, national director of strategic partnerships Katrina Gay told of her difficulties finding a celebrity to speak at a 2006 press event. She went through many weeks of attempts and rejection, finally securing Oscar and Emmy-winning actress Patty Duke. “Why are so many celebrities refusing to step forward,” Ms. Gay asked. “Because celebrities face the same stigma of mental health and discrimination anybody does,” answered Ms. Duke. “But I’ve been the president of the Screen Actors Guild and had a successful career,” she continued. “I can afford to take these risks.”

Fortunately, more celebrities are seeing the value in stepping forward and discussing their mental health issues. Not only are they not suffering the consequences their peers did years ago, they’re helping reduce the stigma of mental health for everyone.

Workplace mental health issues

These Athletes are Winners

As they are role models for so many young people, athletes are especially influential celebrities. And their teams are not just accepting mental health as an all-too-common illness, they are building treatment into everyday training and treatment regimens.

In the WNBA, for example, Liz Cambage of the Las Vegas Aces wrote an honest, detailed story for The Player’s Tribune outlining her struggles with anxiety and depression. In an age when social media commentary can be particularly cruel, most of the feedback on her story was supportive and full of praise.

An opinion piece in the Houston Chronicle outlined other athletes who have spoken honestly about their mental health struggles, including Kevin Love, DeMar DeRozan, Michael Phelps, Oscar De La Hoya and Terry Bradshaw. When these celebrities open up, it often turns into conversations that are mutually beneficial to players, coaches, management and fans, slowly tearing away the negative stigma often associated with mental health disorders.

Along with this shift in public opinion comes more treatment options. According to a report by Sam Amick of The Athletic, the NBA is amping up its mental health guidelines, providing players more access to mental health professionals, an action plan for mental health emergencies and ongoing discussions on how to handle these issues. The NFL just initiated their own mental health plan for the 2019-2020 season. MLB and MLS each have new mental health policies in place. And several WNBA teams provide access to mental health professionals.

Entertainers are Making a Difference, Too

Although actors, singers and musicians don’t have the support of a league, many entertainers have also come forward about their mental health struggles.

Kristen Bell, one of the stars of the series The Good Place, wrote an essay for Time’s Motto about the importance of being candid about her depression. “People in a similar situation need to realize they are not worthless,” Ms. Bell says, “and that they have something to offer.”

Pop sensation Miley Cyrus shared her story with ELLE. “I went through a time where I was really depressed,” she said. “Like, I locked myself in my room and my dad had to break my door down.” She has learned that every person can benefit from talking to somebody.

When Rolling Stone did a story on Bruce Springsteen, he shared that he was in treatment for many years from depression and thoughts of suicide. “After that article,” psychologist and author Deborah Serani recently told Forbes, “I had an influx of young men calling for psychotherapy. His disclosure helped. They thought, ‘if Springsteen was depressed and reached out for treatment, I can too.’”

Employers Can Also Be Mental Health Stars

For employers, mental health issues lead to reduced productivity and higher healthcare costs. So helping employees deal with their mental health issues is always a priority. Now, with celebrities breaking down the stigma of mental health, getting employees to step forward and seek help is getting a bit easier.

In an Espyr® article from last year, Removing the Stigma of Mental Health, we described some of the steps we’ve seen employers are taking that are further breaking down the stigma of mental health, as well as making it easier for employees to get treatment. Here are some highlights:

  1. Offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). 97% of large companies (over 5,000 employees), as well as an estimated 75-80% of mid sized and smaller companies have an EAP. It’s the most powerful weapon in your arsenal to combat mental health stigma and increase employee access to help. (Of course, not all EAPs are created equal. So-called “free” EAPs – those that come embedded in disability insurance products – are based on a model that only works if employee engagement is minimized, so they will be unlikely or unwilling to serve any meaningful role in generating employee engagement.)
  1. Create awareness and education programs. Critically important to the success of any program, your EAP should be very willing to help you build awareness and educate your employees, including:
  • Hosting lunch and learns in the workplace on behavioral health topics
  • Offering a monthly topical webinar for employers to use to educate their employees and normalize mental health issues
  • Providing educational newsletters
  1. Provide easy access to mental health services. Reduce as many barriers to treatment as possible. This could mean adding smartphone features, creating an easy-to-remember phone number or regularly reminding employees about available services.
  1. Create a culture of acceptance. For example, when speaking to employees about medical benefits, include mental health benefits and issues in the conversation, thereby normalizing mental health.
  1. Provide access to an interactive screening program. Allow employees to anonymously check for stress, depression and anxiety. Then, if they wish, they can dialogue with a behavioral health professional to understand their screening results.
  2. Develop a peer support program. Train employees to assist distressed employees and encourage them to access professional behavioral health services.
  3. Prioritize mental health treatment. Draft policies that permit employees to leave work to go to mental health or EAP appointments.

About Espyr

Espyr is a leader in mental health solutions, offering employers a variety of innovative products and services designed to maximize human and organizational potential. For more information on how Espyr can help your company provide for the mental health of your employees, call 888-570-3479 or click here.


The Surging Suicide Rate; What Should Employers Do?

Today’s news headlines that life expectancy for Americans fell for the second time in the past 3 years painted a disturbing picture of life in America.   The primary reasons for the decline? Increasing deaths from opioid abuse and suicide.

The suicide rate in America is up 33% in less than 20 years. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death among those aged 10-34 and fourth leading cause of death among 35-54 year olds.

The suicide rate is up 33% in less than 20 years

Why the suicide rate has increased so rapidly is open to debate. Alcohol and substance abuse, increasing rates of depression, the declines in the family structure as well as sense of community, economic woes, even smartphone usage have all been associated with suicide in one way or another.

Mental health and suicide

The reasons for the increase in the suicide rate may be complicated, but what is clear is that suicide is preventable. In 2016, 45,000 people died by suicide in the US. The number of people who attempted suicide was nearly 29 times higher than that. That’s over 1.25 million people who attempted suicide but survived.

Survivors often describe that it wasn’t the desire to die that drove their suicide attempt, but a desire to escape pain. That pain can be physical, but is often mental pain. Mental pain can be difficult to acknowledge because of the stigma that exists around mental health issues.

The role of employers

One in five Americans will suffer a mental health issue in a given year

Employers have a vested interest in recognizing the importance of mental health.  Employees suffering from mental health issues such as depression will miss approximately five workdays and experience 11.5 days of reduced productivity every three months. This isn’t an isolated issue either. One in five American adults will suffer from some type of mental health issue in a given year.

How can employers help? First, companies need to eliminate the stigma of mental health. Studies have shown that more accepting workplaces have happier employees with better productivity. Awareness and education through frank and open discussions and training is critical in removing mental health stigma.

Second, employers need to learn to recognize the signs of depression. Depression can manifest itself in many different ways: physically, behaviorally and emotionally. Physically, changes in appetite, aches and pains, changes in sleep habits and feeling extremely tired can all occur. Behaviorally, those with depression may exhibit irritability, restlessness, trouble concentrating or difficulty completing daily routines. Increased alcohol consumption or reckless behavior can occur. Emotionally, a strong and consistent feeling of sadness, anxiety or hopelessness may be noticed.

Many companies offer exercise programs or wellness classes such as yoga or meditation. Unilever, one of many companies that have established comprehensive programs designed specifically to support employee mental health, provides regular employee workshops on sleep, mindfulness and exercise, all of which have been linked to good mental health and psychological wellbeing.

One of the most effective ways to support employees with mental health conditions is taking advantage of your Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Comprehensive EAP programs offer information workshops and training for employees and supervisors on mental health. This training helps employees recognize the symptoms of depression and prepares workers and supervisors for actions that need to be taken when suicide prevention measures are called for. Employees have access to counselors through the EAP who are trained and certified to handle mental health issues such as depression.

Of course, many people in need don’t seek help. They’re afraid to come forward because of the stigma of mental health. They’re worried about confidentiality or they fear their mental health conditions may jeopardize their employment.

At Espyr®, we offer an industry-first Interactive Screening Program (ISP) that provides employees 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.

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 judgment.”

Learn more

As a leading behavioral health provider, Espyr has extensive experience working with employers to recognize and deal with employee mental health issues such as depression or feelings of suicide. To learn more how Espyr can help your organization call us at 888-570-3479 or click here.



Dying For Help: Addressing Mental Health Stigma In The Workplace

Polished.  Buttoned up.  Accomplished.  Funny.   This was how Sally Saba, MD was described.

And on March 5, 2017 she attempted to take her own life.

So it was only natural that the filled auditorium was hushed when Dr. Saba, Vice President of Operations, Performance and Compliance in Diversity and Inclusion at Kaiser Permanente Health Plan in California described her battle with depression and attempted suicide. Dr. Saba was speaking at the #Findyourwords Forum on Mental Health Stigma sponsored by Kaiser Permanente in Atlanta October 15.

Along with Dr. Saba, the Forum featured a panel of distinguished mental health experts, one of which was Norman Winegar, Chief Clinical Officer for Espyr.  I interviewed Mr. Winegar who shared his valuable commentary on mental health stigma, depression and suicide prevention for this article.

Golden: Mr. Winegar, why are people who suffer from depression and other mental health conditions reluctant to get help?

Winegar: There is a pervasive social stigma associated with seeking help for behavioral health conditions. People fear negative repercussions, both professionally and personally.  They’re concerned about a potential lack of promotions at work or alienation from friends and family.

Golden: Why should employers be concerned about mental health stigma?

Winegar: There are many reasons. Undocumented and untreated behavioral health conditions can have serious outcomes. Mood disorders are the leading cause of lost workdays in the world according to the World Health Organization.

Left untreated, behavioral health conditions can increase the cost of medical care. Compliance with treatment plans can be negatively impacted.   There is a high co-occurrence of mental health and physical health conditions, which can complicate and undermine medical care. Furthermore, people with undiagnosed mental health conditions use non-psychiatric healthcare services (including costly Emergency Department visits) 3 times more than those who do get treatment.

Employee performance is affected via absenteeism, presenteeism, turnover, decreased safety and increased risk. All these issues can and will affect team cohesion, customer service and can create disciplinary issues. Depressed employees for example are 20-30% more likely to become unemployed.

Overall, the cost of behavioral health conditions to US employers is estimated at $80-100 Billion annually (NIMH), so employers have a strong economic incentive to be concerned about mental health stigma.

Golden: What can employers do to reduce stigma and encourage employees to get assistance?

Winegar: Generally speaking it’s a combination of education and policy change.

  1. Use respectful language. Avoid terms like “crazy” or “he/ she is bipolar”
  2. Provide professional development opportunities for your employees (especially supervisors and managers) around diversity and mental health awareness
  3. Foster an inclusive workplace culture
  4. Create and communicate polices that make it safe for people in distress to come forward and access treatment. For instance, Kaiser Permanente has developed a Mental Health, Wellness and Resiliency Strategy to support the company-wide awareness of Mental Health issues and to create a stigma-free environment.
  5. Support educational programs in the workplace to educate about mental health issues and to encourage peer support
  6. Implement a suicide awareness and prevention program

Golden: Do suicide prevention programs work?

Winegar: Absolutely! Let me give you a few examples.

  • The US Air Force implemented a suicide prevention program and saw a 33% reduction in suicides over 6 years
  • The University of California, San Diego School of Medicine implemented in 2009 an online anonymous Interactive Screening Program after 10 physicians and medical students committed suicide over a period of 15 years. Since 2009, 300 physicians and trainees have accepted referrals to treatment via this anonymous, confidential program.
  • A large Federal customer of Espyr’s has since 2016 offered a similar Interactive Screening Program that has referred over 120 people to treatment in 2 years.

Golden: Is there a correlation between type of occupation and the severity of stigma around mental illness?

Winegar: Yes.

Healthcare professionals experience stigma as it relates to policies that may cause them fear of losing their professional license.

Government employees experience stigma as it relates to policies that cause them fear that if they seek treatment they may lose their security clearance, and hence their job.

Attorneys (and law students) experience stigma as it relates to policies that may cause them fear of losing their bar status or not being able to take the bar exam.

Law Enforcement and First Responders experience stigma as it relates to Fitness for Duty policies that cause them fear that disclosing a behavioral health condition may cause a temporary or permanent removal of their badge or weapon.

Golden: How can employers measure the mental health of employees?

Winegar: Employers have several tools at their disposal.

  • Holistic analytics can provide insight into the health of the workforce, beyond just claims analysis.
  • Health Risk Assessments (HRAs) should include not only questions about emotional wellbeing but also about employee awareness of employer-sponsored resources and whether managers are supportive of team members’ mental and emotional wellbeing.
  • Utilization of their EAP. For instance “free EAPs” usually have 1-2% usage, but employers know that 20+% of employees are having some type of mental health issue each year that can affect their work and therefore their employer’s profitability. So going cheap in this important area is unwise and poor business sense. Many factors can influence use of an EAP, but generally look for case utilization in the 8-12% range; look for your EAP to reach and impact 20-30% of your workforce through some form of activity.

Golden: What should I say to someone who is reluctant to get help?

Winegar: Have what I call a caring conversation. Ask if they are Ok. Note the behavioral changes you’ve seen. And it’s okay to ask someone if they are thinking about suicide or self-harm. This caring question will not “put the idea in their mind”.  Listen and be non-judgmental. Provide support and encouragement. Point out resources like a Primary Care Physician or the EAP. Keep faith-based resources in mind for some people. Follow-up and check in with the person.

If you think the person is in imminent danger to themselves or others, call 911 or if you are at work, speak with a manager or call security.

Golden: What was it that you wanted people to walk away with from your comments at the #Findyourwords event?

Winegar: Stigma drives silence and silence prevents those in need from getting help. This can have disastrous personal and business consequences. Breaking this silence encourages people to get help. This starts with each one of us.

When people feel safe, they are more likely to access sources of assistance and treatment.

Businesses need to act in responsible ways when it comes to their most valuable asset, their employees. Employers need to pair robust healthcare services with proactive programs like comprehensive EAP services and other specialized programs to reduce social barriers to seeking help (such as Interactive Screening Programs; Peer Support programs, Mental Health Awareness education, etc.). This makes good business and people sense.


To read more about addressing mental health stigma go to this prior Espyr post  See this post to read more about how employers can address the rise in suicides.

As a leader in behavioral health, Espyr is frequently called upon to help our clients and their employees deal with depression and suicide prevention. 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 Chief Clinical Officer Norman Winegar to Speak on Mental Health Panel

Depression and other mental health issues are more common than most of us would think.  40 million Americans live with depression, and 1 in 5 Americans is diagnosed with a mental health issue in a given year. Unfortunately, those who suffer from mental health issues often refrain from getting the help they need due to the stigma attached to mental health.

On Oct. 15, Norman Winegar, Espyr’s Chief Clinical Officer, will join a distinguished panel of mental health experts to discuss what employers can do to relieve the stigma that prevents employees from getting the professional help they need. The event, #FINDYOURWORDS: Breaking the Silence Around Mental Health and Wellness, is presented by Kaiser Permanente.

The event will begin with keynote speaker, Dr. Sally Saba, Vice President of Operations, Performance, and Compliance, National Diversity and Inclusion at Kaiser Permanente, who will share a compelling story about her personal journey and struggle with mental health.  The panel discussion that follows will include a representative from the State of Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and community advocates.

As a leader in behavioral health, Espyr is honored to participate in this important conversation.  The event, which will take place in Atlanta and was open to the public, sold out very quickly.  For those interested in learning more about how employers can help relieve the stigma of mental health,  we will provide a synopsis in a blog posting following the event.