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What is Mental Health Awareness Month and Why Does it Matter?

The importance of providing employees with mental health support.

Each year, millions of people face mental health concerns with limited support. (According to the WHO, that’s 1 in every 8.) The effects of anxiety and depression alone contribute to a loss of productivity, costing the global economy an estimated $1 trillion yearly. Despite the high rates of mental health needs, over two-thirds of those who need care don’t receive any. 

As an employer, you want to provide your employees with the support they need and avoid the potential costs of untreated mental health conditions in the workplace.

One way to ensure your organization supports employees' mental well-being is by participating in Mental Health Awareness Month (MHAM) in May. This is the perfect time for organizations to take steps to destigmatize mental health, and better promote mental health in the long term. Continue reading to learn how to support employees during MHAM and beyond. 

Understanding the Impact of Mental Health on the Workplace

Barriers to care are critical because they lead to further complications for employees and increased costs for employers. For example, employees with unresolved depression experience a 35% reduction in productivity, contributing to an annual economic loss of $210.5 billion. It’s important to note that these costs don't even reflect the direct and indirect costs of turnover, which often amount to a larger “hidden tax” for organizations. 

The cost of inaction is too great to ignore.

Our research estimates that fewer than 1 in 3 employees who are enrolled in mental health benefits through their employer feel they met their needs. This is largely because employers continue to offer support through single-point solutions such as EAPs, which often create roadblocks in the type of care that employees can receive.  Most EAPs offer limited care modalities and lack a high-quality network of providers, meaning employees experience long wait times for appointments or no care options that meet their current needs.

This is why employers must provide employees equitable health benefits that meet their needs. Our research also reveals that retention is 5.5% higher among employees who engaged with our comprehensive mental health programs than those who did not. For an employer with 10,000 employees, this could result in an estimated savings of $3,857,235 to $5,785,921.

Supporting Employees During Mental Health Awareness Month

The Mental Health America (MHA) group established Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States in 1949. Since then, May has become the widely accepted month to raise awareness for mental health and reduce stigma around mental health conditions. Here are a few ways organizations can begin to participate in reducing stigma in the workplace.

Providing Mental Health Benefits

Untreated mental health conditions can have a profound impact on the workplace. Left unaddressed, they can lead to decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, and higher healthcare costs for employers. Providing mental health benefits is a proactive way for employers to mitigate these risks and support their employees' well-being. 

However, it's crucial to understand that mental health needs are diverse and unique to each individual. Offering a single solution or approach is not effective for addressing the full spectrum of mental health needs in the workplace. This is why it's important for employers to provide a range of resources to meet employees where they are on the mental health spectrum.

At the heart of this approach is a commitment to individualized care. By acknowledging that one size does not fit all, employers can offer a more effective and meaningful mental health benefits program. This approach also signals to employees that their employer is invested in their well-being.

What to Look for in Mental Health Benefits:

  • Provide multiple modalities of care: Ensure your benefits provide employees with various care options, such as personalized support, self-paced programs, group sessions, one-to-one therapy, and coaching with certified providers. More options from a single, comprehensive source mean more program adoption (and reduced spending on additional resources).
  • Offer benefits that evolve with changing needs: Benefits should support higher or lower acuity needs as employee needs change. Employers should offer a range of options, including community sessions, digital resources, specialized coaching, and clinical assessments to meet changing needs. Those options can help support those in any patient population, from green to red.
  • Focus on culturally centered care: Services that respect and respond to the individual's cultural, linguistic, and other social and environmental needs and integrate cultural knowledge, awareness, and understanding into the delivery allow for precise communication. Employees will feel comfortable relaying their concerns, especially those in the red. 

Raising Awareness

Employers can help employees feel less alone by developing campaigns that raise awareness. Here are a few ways employers can raise awareness, address stigma, and foster a sense of belonging in the workplace:

  • Showcase mental health benefits: Ensure employees are aware of mental health benefits by holding meetings, providing resources, and sharing instructions about accessing care through benefit offerings. 
  • Integrate wellness into workplace culture: Formal strategies that infuse mental well-being into the company culture focus on providing workplace processes and benefits that help reduce stress and promote mental well-being, including flexibility, time off, added breaks, environmental changes, etc.
  • Have mental health conversations in the workplace: Normalizing conversations around mental health in meetings, informal discussions, and one-on-one talks can help reduce stigma and bolster employee belonging.
  • Hold gatherings to promote mental well-being: Often, gatherings, screenings, and events work to conduct awareness. Employers can follow this example by holding company-wide events, developing social media campaigns, and providing employees with resources about mental health care.

Encouraging Self-Care

Integrating self-care throughout your daily schedule improves both mental and physical health. Yet, self-care is often reserved for hours outside of work. Employers can help employees practice self-care by changing workplace policies and improving work-life balance. 

For example, creating flexible work schedules can help employees manage personal responsibilities without missing work. Providing mental health days or time off for self-care activities can give employees more balance and improve morale. Developing a company-sponsored wellness program can provide employees with resources and eliminate cost barriers to services that can improve mental and physical wellness. 

Providing Support and Resources

Stigma surrounding mental health often leads to limited knowledge about mental health conditions and ways to prioritize mental wellness. Employers can provide employees with resources about the importance of mental health care and offer frequent, transparent information about the company's mental health benefits and how to use them. 

If you find that your business lacks adequate resources to support employee mental health, take the opportunity to explore options most likely to help them. For example, access to mental health services through digital channels or community-based care provides employees with increased access while addressing concerns about missing work or interfering with other responsibilities.

 Improve Employee Wellness During Mental Health Awareness and Beyond

Prioritizing mental health in the workplace is essential for employees, businesses, and society. While we all experience stress and other mental health challenges differently, everyone faces struggles from time to time. 

By honoring Mental Health Awareness Month, employers can ensure that their employees are supported and begin forging a path toward long-term transformation in their workplace. 

If your organization wants to learn more about measuring the ROI of your current mental health benefits, download our in-depth guide below.  

Modern Health

Modern Health is the comprehensive mental wellness platform that combines the WHO well-being assessment, self-service wellness kits, an international network of certified coaches, and licensed therapists available in 35 languages all in a single app. Modern Health empowers employers to lead the charge in acknowledging that mental health is just as important as physical health, de-stigmatizing the conversation, and increasing accessibility of mental health services for all.