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The Importance of Equitable Mental Health Access For a Global Workforce

Learn more about creating equitable access to mental health benefits for your global workforce.

Health equity aims to directly address differences in social, economic, and environmental factors that influence health and healthcare access  in order to allow all patients  the opportunity to be as healthy as possible.  A key component of equitable healthcare is  providing care that does not vary in quality because of patients’ personal characteristics such as gender, ethnicity, geographical location, and socioeconomic status. This is critical in the sector of mental health. 

Yet, employees around the globe experience significant barriers to mental health access for a variety of reasons. Stigma surrounding mental health care, a shortage of mental health care providers, and programs that fail to prioritize mental well-being lead to limited treatment options for many employees. These limitations frequently disproportionately impact employees of marginalized identities leading to disparities (i.e., differences) in access, quality, and outcomes. When considering a global workforce addressing mental health disparities is even more complex.

Mental health care is not a one-size-fits-all service that applies to every individual in every circumstance. The future of mental health depends on the ability to serve employees as individuals in a way that provides services that meet their current needs. 

Equitable access to mental health care can be achieved through culturally sensitive care, easing access to diverse providers, and providing multiple modalities to offer services that promote mental well-being and clinical-level care. Employers can help employees access this care with carefully selected employer-sponsored benefits.

Importance of Equity in Employee Mental Health Access

Mental health equity is the right to access quality mental health care for all populations regardless of the individual's race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, or geographical location. This includes access to prevention, treatment, and recovery services for mental health and substance use disorders. Equitable mental health care treats employees as individuals by providing care when and how employees need it most. 

Equity in employee mental health access is important because it offers employees the ability to receive benefits that are inclusive, culturally centered, and easily accessible. Ease of access encourages higher adoption rates that give employers more accurate insight into the ROI of high-quality mental health benefits. 

Benefits of Mental Healthcare

Mental health is as important as physical health when it comes to performance in the workplace. Symptoms of depression include difficulty concentrating and a loss of interest in most activities, leading to an average of 31.4 missed days each year. 

Improved mental health access reduces days of missed work and lowers medical costs. Furthermore, employees reap the benefits of mental health services that meet their individual needs, increasing well-being and a sense of satisfaction with their position. As a result, employers can reduce attrition.

However, without benefits that provide equitable access to care, employees of marginalized identities are likely to face barriers to access. Overall, only 43% of adults in the U.S. experiencing mental health challenges receive the care they need. Breaking those numbers down further reveals that 50% of white Americans receive care while only 31% of employees in the Black community, 33% in Hispanic communities, and only 25% of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders receive counseling or therapy or other forms of mental health care. 

Furthermore, equitable access to mental health care addresses the whole person, including disparities that come with race, sexual identity, disabilities, and culture. Failure to provide culturally sensitive care can lead to the amplification of systemic disparities that exist in mental healthcare. For instance, Asian American communities are burdened with the “model minority” stereotype, which assumes they’re successful and well-adjusted. Members of the Black community are often traumatized by frequent experiences of racism. Language barriers and poverty create disproportionate healthcare access for Hispanic/Latinx communities. Members of the LGBTQI community face higher instances of depression and suicide due to trauma and stigma. Employees with disabilities experience mental challenges related to living with disabilities, their potential devalued by others, and a focus on physical care. Mental health care that fails to address the way specific cultural or personal experiences affect mental health presents another form of disparity in mental health care. 

A mentally healthy environment leads to higher levels of productivity and more positive interactions between colleagues. Accessible mental health benefits provide advantages for employees in the form of improved mental well-being and measurable ROI for employers. To put it into better perspective, 80% of those treated for mental health concerns report improved work satisfaction levels.

However, companies that fail to address existing disparities are likely to see limited results. Employer benefits that only improve access for some employees don’t offer equitable access for all. To fully experience the benefits of accessible mental health care, employers must invest in a solution that addresses inequities.

How to Create Equitable Access to Mental Health Benefits

A recent study revealed that employer-sponsored health and well-being programs were irrelevant to the needs of more than half of employees. Benefits that fail to address inequitable access to care and fail to provide culturally centered care increase inequitable access to mental health care. 

With the right benefits programs, employers can break down these barriers and provide equitable access to mental health care for all employees. These steps can help create equitable access to mental health care for your employees.

Reduce Costs

Two in five employees deferred care last year. Cost is one of the top reasons for employees not receiving mental health care services, and employees with lower incomes are negatively impacted by the cost of care. 

A recent study revealed that 42% of the population saw cost and poor insurance coverage as the top barriers to accessing mental health care. Even worse, one in four Americans reported choosing between getting mental health treatment and paying for daily necessities.

Mental health benefits that cut costs for employees can provide them with a way to get the services they need, which may be particularly important for employees with lower incomes or who are more likely to defer care. By choosing benefit solutions that offer multiple service options, including digital services and self-guided care, employers can cut costs for employees and provide high-quality mental health benefits at a third of the cost of traditional solutions.  

Increase Access to Network Providers

With the US experiencing a shortage of therapists that impacts an estimated 132 million Americans, many employees may be unable to access the care they need when they need it most. For more than half of mental health clinics, the average wait time for an appointment is more than 3 months. However, there is a high variation in wait times that range between 21 days and 205 days. These wait times likely impact lower income, less educated, potentially marginalized identities more.  

The problem is compounded by the fact that most EAPs require employees to get referrals for external partners. In these cases, employees must attend multiple appointments and wait extended periods before starting care. 

While it's impossible to immediately close the gap between licensed mental health professionals and those needing mental health care services, there are ways to reduce the wait for care. Virtual appointments increase the number of available therapy options and reduce costs for practitioners. Additionally, multiple modalities of care provide self-guided treatment that helps employees avoid the need for clinical treatment. 

Foster Culturally Centered Care

Close to 1 million people are living with a mental disorder. Yet, relatively few people worldwide have access to quality mental health services. In low- and middle-income countries, more than 75% of people with mental, neurological, and substance use disorders receive no treatment for their condition at all. Furthermore, stigma, discrimination, punitive legislation, and human rights abuses are widespread.

Cultural differences can affect an individual's mental health needs and care preferences. A more profound commitment to equitable mental health care begins with understanding how these nuances present themselves in the workplace. 

In addition to shortages, providers must be able to come from a place of cultural humility. Fostering culturally centered care is vital to reduce mental health disparities and promoting equity in care among diverse global populations. Culturally centered care focuses on four guiding principles that include:

  • Awareness of culture
  • Knowledge concerning cultural aspects of an individual group, couple, family, community, or organizational experience
  • Understanding the difference between culture and pathology
  • Ability to integrate these concepts into service delivery

Modern Health eliminates barriers to mental health care with various services and solutions to address cultural differences and inequity in access to mental health care. With a global network of providers, Modern Health offers employees mental health services that are easily accessible and culturally centered. Additionally, through Modern Health's vision for DEIB, it has its own Global Inclusion Council, a collection of licensed therapists and certified coaches from different countries to share knowledge and insights to ensure that mental care is centered on diversity in the workplace, equity, inclusion, and belonging.

Expand Care Options and Modalities

While most people interpret mental health care to mean one-on-one care with a therapist or coach, only 44% of Modern Health members new to the platform say they prefer that option. There are many wonderful options and modalities to choose from that go beyond traditional 1:1 therapy models. Such services include coaching, group community sessions, and self-guided digital content. 

Furthermore, nearly 80% of employees believe they can avoid chronic mental health conditions and the need for clinical-level care if they routinely prioritize their mental health. Unfortunately, many traditional mental health care options (like EAPs) only provide access to one-on-one therapy in limited sessions, and often have long wait times to see a provider.Not all employees require care at the high acuitylevel. Sometimes, they need help to manage stress, be more mindful, or develop healthy sleeping patterns

As such, it's vital to offer services that provide varying levels of care. By providing options that give employees the tools they need to prioritize their mental well-being, employers are likely to see higher adoption rates and improved ROI on their investment in employee mental health care.

Equitable access to mental health care is crucial in addressing the global mental health crisis facing individuals around the globe. By providing employee benefits that offer multiple modalities of care for varying acuity levels, employers can help relieve their employees' burdens. Businesses that invest in the mental health of their employees on an individual level recognize higher ROIs through increased adoption rates that lead to decreased absenteeism, increased productivity, and improved engagement. 

Modern Healthmeets all members wherever they are on their mental health journey. Our goal is to guide every member to the right support for their needs and care preferences. We understand the vast challenges employers and employees face in the search for equitable access to high-quality mental health care. 

It can be difficult to find the right benefits for your global workforce. Luckily, you don't have to do it alone. Learn more about mental health benefits that provide equitable access to mental health care  

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.