What are mental health benefits?
Mental health is just as important as physical health. (Read that again!)
It impacts all areas of work and life. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It can also make or break our ability to concentrate and deliver on our responsibilities.
Mental health benefits give folks access to tools and resources to maintain a healthy headspace, so they can navigate (and enjoy!) their life, both on and off the clock.
Right now, these benefits are in high demand — and for good reason. As predicted by DocuSign’s Director of Global Health Benefits (and Nava Advisor) Ellen Meza, "Today, the big three — medical, dental, vision — is now the big four, with mental healthcare becoming a standard pillar.”
While mental health care can take many forms, these two types of services are most common:
Therapy - Traditionally this means working one-on-one with a licensed provider. In most cases, patients meet with their therapist regularly to confidentially talk through what’s on their mind, develop a stronger understanding of their feelings and behaviors, and explore coping skills.
Psychiatric care - For individuals who are living with ongoing mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, visiting a psychiatrist can help make symptoms more manageable. Psychiatrists work with their patients to identify a diagnosis and treatment plan based on their symptoms. This may mean prescribing medication, scheduling regular psychotherapy sessions, or referring them to additional providers.
Still, if there's anything you need to know about mental healthcare, it's this: "There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to behavioral health and mental health," says Marcus Osborne, SVP of Walmart Health (and Nava Advisor). "For some people, a more traditional 1-on-1, in-person talk therapy approach works. For others, digitally-enabled solutions are more effective... Understanding that the solution needs to be omnichannel in nature is the most critical."
The right treatment plan will sometimes include support from multiple sources. For example, some people will benefit from therapy alone. Others will want psychiatric services for long-term care but may also connect with a counselor from time to time to resolve short-term issues. Many will also benefit from mindfulness and mental wellness support on top of a mental healthcare plan.
That's why it's important to build an offering that gives employees the flexibility to develop their own plan that's uniquely tailored to their lifestyle, culture, and needs.
How do employees use mental health benefits?
Depending on what kind of mental health benefits you offer, your employees can build the care plan that works for their unique health needs and lifestyle. Today’s offerings span in-person, hybrid, or virtual — and even that category ranges from text, app, and virtual.
Say you have an employee who has been feeling anxious lately. Under his medical insurance plan, he’s able to see a therapist once a week to manage his anxiety and talk through day-to-day issues. He usually goes into his therapist’s office for appointments, but sometimes opts for virtual appointments over video chat.
Another employee visits a psychiatrist to treat symptoms of depression. Her sessions are covered by medical insurance, as well as the medications prescribed by the doctor. In addition to her prescriptions, she also practices medication for mental wellness through a mindfulness app.
Why are mental health benefits important for employees?
Just like any other health issue, mental health has the potential to affect your employees' day-to-day lives. Also like any other health issue, your employees' mental health may not be consistent — there are good days and bad days.
But regardless of whether it’s a good or bad day, untreated mental health issues can make it difficult for your employees to feel comfortable at work. Over time, this can impact productivity, lower morale, and generally make it difficult for them to enjoy life.
There's also a strong relationship between mental and physical health. Over time, mental health difficulties can increase the risk of developing serious medical conditions, such as cardiovascular disease or Alzheimer's. And in turn, people with chronic medical conditions are at a higher risk of developing depression. Taking care of your mind is taking care of your body. It really is that simple.
But with an effective mental health plan in place, people are more comfortable in their day-to-day lives. Not only can they concentrate better at work, but they also have the headspace to build (and enjoy) a fulfilling personal life. And when challenges arise, they’ll be in a better position to navigate tough situations.
Why should employers offer mental health benefits?
There's a clear business argument for offering these benefits, from employee engagement (56% of employees say anxiety impacts their work performance!) to overall cost containment (employers see an estimated $1 trillion in annual losses globally due to employees' untreated depression and anxiety!)
Ultimately this is an investment that can net you big cost savings over time. A report from the W.H.O. estimated that for every $1 spent on mental health treatment, there's a $4 return in improved health and productivity. Yes, you read that right: that’s a 400% return.
On top of the business case, offering mental health services is key to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. This is an important step towards creating a more welcoming environment for folks from all walks of life.
And when employees find the right treatment plan, it has a big impact. Almost 86% of employees report improved work performance after getting treatment for depression.