New Ways to Benefit Mental Health

woman at desk

Many of us have read about actions some larger employers are taking to help employees struggling with psychologi- cal effects of Covid-19. Indications are that many small and mid-size organizations are taking positive steps as well. LinkedIn, a social media platform used by millions of businesses and individuals, is offering online courses to help employees address high levels of stress and fatigue. Meditation and how to deal with grief and loss are just two topics covered. A few regional banks are expanding telemedicine options to address some of the isolation experienced by those working at home.

Data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that in November of 2020, 42 percent of Americans reported symptoms of an anxiety or depressive disorder. While many employers plan to introduce programs supporting mental health, only about a third of employees surveyed in the PwC Workplace Pulse Survey said their employer was doing so.

The National Council for Behavioral Health’s Mental Health First Aid program offers a great deal of information and resources to help employers and individuals cope. To learn more, visit https://www.thenationalcouncil.org/covid19/.

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Anyone Can Lower Stress

woman at deskIf 2020 wasn’t everyone’s most stressful year, it has to rank among the top for sure. From hardship created by the Coronavirus to unrest in our biggest cities, virtually everyone’s routines have been disrupted. Whether you’re working from home or transitioning back to the office, here are some steps you can take to improve your mental health.

Mini-Meditation: Even 5 minutes of meditation can help erase negative thoughts and improve your attitude. The people around you will benefit from your improved mood too. If you want something to clear the mind, there are plenty of apps you can access with your mobile device.

Try Tangibles: Meetings and projects will always be there, so why not designate one 10 to 15 minute time slot to turn off your digital devices and do something different. Write a note or journal entry, make notes on a new project or pick up the phone and call a friend or family member just to say hello.

Celebrate Success: Whether you take a few minutes to recognize an accomplishment of your own or congratulate a co-worker on a recent achievement, make “bravos” a small part of your week. Celebrating or sharing our accomplishments can go a long way, especially in challenging times.

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Should You Be Doing More About Mental Health?

woman at deskThere is little doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on the mental well-being of many Americans. In addition to dealing with fear of the virus and social isolation, economic pressures have continued to grow. Many who have continued to work have been forced to balance working remotely with caring for children who would normally be in school.

A survey by telemedicine giant Teladoc recently showed that nearly half of American workers say their mental health has been negatively impacted. The more disturbing statistic is that only 27% say their employers are taking steps to provide help.

What Others are Doing

While larger employers have long made employee assistance programs available to those in need, the expansion of telemedicine has enabled employers of all sizes to provide access to behavioral health professionals. These appointments traditionally were held by phone, but many are now conducted by video using computers or smart phones.

As the pandemic has continued, onsite employers’ clinics have shown a significant increase in mental health and stress-related cases. Some health systems have placed mental health providers inside workplaces to provide quicker access to treatment. For more information or to strengthen your health plan in this critical area, contact your account representative today. systems have placed mental health providers inside workplaces to provide quicker access to treatment. For more information or to strengthen your health plan in this critical area, contact your account representative today.

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Mental Health Days

stressed-womenAs more workers struggle with stress in and out of the workplace, some are requesting time off in order to cope. This is not a problem for companies with sick-day policies that allow employees to use their paid personal days for any reason. In other workplaces, people who are honest about asking for a mental health day can sometimes be looked upon as suffering from a mental health issue. Regardless of how your organization may handle these issues, it is important to respect employees’ right to privacy and avoid probing for sensitive information about a person’s well-being.

Getting Creative About Behavioral Health

behavioralhealthWith behavioral health conditions impacting one in five Americans, it’s no wonder we’re seeing more employers search for ways to provide members with better access to behavioral healthcare benefits.

Statistics show that many employees, including some that are insured, fail to get the mental healthcare they need. Because self-funded health plans provide plan design flexibility, some plans are taking bold steps to address this growing need. While many are using telemedicine to improve access and lower costs, some employers are treating out-of-network behavioral health treatment as in-network, enabling employees to pay the same amount for treatment regardless of which provider they use. Others are covering out-of-network behavioral healthcare services even when their plan doesn’t cover out-of-network services for other types of care.

When you consider that mental illness has become the greatest cause of disability claims in the U.S., it is not surprising that employers are looking for ways to help employees obtain the care they need.

Significant Action is Warranted

There is plenty of research to show that Americans are not getting the mental healthcare they need. According to Mental Health America, despite having health insurance, 56.5% of adults with mental illness received no treatment in the past year.

Another problem is that behavioral health treatments are rarely classified as primary care, and are regarded instead as specialty treatment. This makes people find an in-network provider, go out-of-network, pay higher out-of-pocket costs or avoid treatment altogether. Claims data from Collective Health shows that more than 40% of the 2017 behavioral health spend was out-of-network, which is many times the amount spent on primary or preventative care.

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Fighting Depression in the Workplace

woman at deskWhile awareness of mental health concerns in the workplace is increasing, studies repeatedly show that not enough employees feel comfortable utilizing mental health benefits. Furthermore, many employees are often unaware mental health benefits are even available. With more than 40 million Americans living with depression, it’s more important than ever to make sure the workplace is taking positive steps to address it. Here are positive steps your company can take:

Take a holistic approach. Addressing the many areas of wellness, including physical, financial and mental, equally can help employees feel safe enough to seek treatment through employer provided healthcare plans. Stigma is still a major barrier to access, but employers can encourage accessing treatment by putting the necessary emphasis on mental health and wellness. Providing an open space for conversation, information and support can increase overall employee mental wellness. And of course, extending benefits to all family members can prove extremely valuable.

Keep employees informed. Though your company may have excellent programs and benefits to address mental illness and depression, it’s possible that your employees are unaware of how to access them. When bringing the discussion of mental wellness into the public space it’s important that the tools and avenues to accessing help are made very clear.

Promote flexibility. Certain industries deal with more critical situations, such as safety concerns, fatigue or a high risk of injury. While there is no “off the shelf” solution to mental wellness, employers can play a major role in bringing mental health out in the open. And today more than ever, a company is only as healthy as its employees.

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Latest Happenings in Today’s World

Benefits Linked to Loyalty

A 2012 report by Aflac WorkForces shows undeniable evidence linking benefits offerings and employee loyalty. When asked what their current employer could do to keep them in their jobs, 49% answered, “improve my benefits package.” Employees who are extremely or very satisfied with their benefits program are 9 times more likely to stay with their current employer than those who are dissatisfied with their benefits program. Continue reading

Setting Limits on Screen Time

The average adult in the U.S. watches almost five hours of television per day. Even for people with high levels of physical activity, watching four or more hours of TV and screen-based entertainment per day is associated with worse mental health, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, low levels of “good” (HDL) cholesterol, and a 46% greater risk of early death. What can you do to protect yourself and your family from an overdose of this technology? Continue reading