For the young men and women now in the workforce – now working for your company – anxiety and other mental health issues are on the rise.

According to The Atlantic, this should not come as a surprise. Anxiety has been a growing problem among young adults since, at least, the 1950s, reportedly caused by increases in everything from stress to pressure to social media to divorce. In addition, the Center for Collegiate Mental Health has been warning about higher levels of mental illness among college students since 2009. By age 18, a National Institute of Mental Healthstudy of Millennials uncovered, these students – our children – are dealing with a disturbing variety of issues:

  • 35% will be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
  • 25% will be diagnosed with a substance addiction.
  • 20% will have a behavioral disorder.

These are the people coming into your company.

“Because we work so many hours, young people in today’s world want to bring their full selves into the workplace, and their full selves include mental disorders,” said Dan Schawbel, author of Back to Human: How Great Leaders Create Connection in the Age of Isolationand research director at Future Workplace, an executive development firm. “Leaders have to be more empathetic and supportive of people going through tough times mentally because it’s more common than you think.”

Compounding the Problem

According to Mental Health America, there’s a growing behavioral healthcare gap; the problem is greater, but fewer people are receiving treatment.

  • The rate of youth experiencing a mental health condition continues to rise. The rate of youth with a Major Depressive Episode (MDE) increased from 11.93% to 12.63%, and only 38% of those are receiving treatment.
  • Many Americans experiencing a mental health condition still report having an unmet need. 1 in 5 – or 9 million adults – reported having an unmet need.
  • There continues to be a shortage in the mental health workforce. Many states saw some improvement in this regard, but in states with the lowest workforce, there was almost four times the number of individuals to only one mental health provider.

The Employer’s Responsibility

Every day, companies adapt to all kinds of business issues to maintain or increase effectiveness, efficiency and profitability – supply chain issues, rising prices, finding good employees, new competition, etc. In the same way, companies and company leaders are adapting to serve the increasing number of employees with mental health issues to maintain or increase productivity.

“I think HR is going to have to step up and take the lead on this,” said Schawbel. “With so many young people in the workplace, there is more of a demand for new skills.”

One of those skills is to ensure a company has a proper mental or behavioral health support system in place for its employees. While a comprehensive Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a great foundation, it alone does not provide the proper levels of care.

At Espyr™, we have developed a number of innovative behavior health solutions that meet this growing need. Spotlight™ is a behavioral health program that uses a proprietary analytics platform to proactively identify high-risk employees and dependents – those suffering from behavioral or physical issues – then reaches out proactively with personalized interventions. The Espyr Coach program offers coaching by mental health professionals for those who don’t quite need counseling or feel counseling has a negative connotation.

Both programs mean more employees will get the help they need.

More Helpful Practices

While programs, support and understanding are important steps in helping deal with the growing number of mental and behavioral health issues, there are endless ideas employers can implement, any of which may make a huge difference in an employee’s life.

The Society for Human Resource Management put together the following to-do list of practices for employers, as recommended by mental health experts:

  • Provide support and make reasonable adjustments to working conditions.
  • Maintain privacy around the worker and his or her condition.
  • Approach young workers when you are concerned. If they don’t want to talk to you, encourage them to seek support (through your existing program or anywhere else).
  • Speak to young workers regularly. Having a good relationship means you will know what their normal behavior is and can identify when things have changed.
  • Because alcohol may increase anxiety and stress and contribute to feelings of depression, ensure your workplace culture doesn’t encourage excessive alcohol use. Provide alcohol-free alternatives for workplace events.
  • Reduce stress for young workers by ensuring they take regular breaks.
  • Provide ample time between shifts to allow for rest and recovery.
  • Have a list of contacts for a range of help and support services posted prominently in your workplace.
  • Make sure your health care plan and EAP give convenient access to mental and behavioral health services.

For more information on how Espyr can help your company deal with growing mental and behavioral health issues, call 888-570-3479 or go to espyr.com.