Mental Health Benefits Are Still Underutilized. Here’s What You Can Do for Your Employees
By: Birch

Last year, nearly 60% of U.S. employees admitted to struggling with work-related stress. Currently, prescription drug utilization for behavioral health issues is at an all-time high, indicating that many Americans in today’s workforce are seeking treatment for burnout, life stressors, and mental health disorders.

A vast majority of these employees think their employer should support their mental health. And yet years into America’s mental health crisis, employees are not taking advantage of their current offerings, with utilization of employee assistance programs (EAPs) falling below 6% nationwide.

The bottom line: Workplace mental health programs are falling short. Here is what employers can do to break down barriers to mental health care and increase engagement in their benefits.

Boost Utilization: Educate Your Employees

One of employers’ biggest challenges to their mental health benefits programs is the nationwide underutilization of current offerings, such as the EAP. Even though the majority of U.S. employees have an EAP, utilization remains in the single digits. In order to ensure your benefits are being used, education and training for your employees should be a priority.

In the months leading up to open enrollment, employees often get a deluge of information regarding their benefits, which can be overwhelming to many. Hosting educational meetings for your employees throughout the year, not just during open enrollment season, can help proactively answer their questions and minimize any roadblocks getting in the way of utilization. In these meetings, you can remind your employees about all of the offerings available to them, re-educate them on how to access their benefits portal, and train them on how to use their digital resources to address their individual concerns.

Break the Stigma: Make Benefits Relatable

Part of making sure your new or existing mental health benefits are accessible and supportive of employees’ mental health is breaking down the barriers and stigma surrounding mental health issues.

In addition to not knowing what’s available to them, many employees may not understand how their benefits can help them. During your employee education sessions, address the real effects of workplace stress and burnout as well as the reality and pervasiveness of mental health issues among working Americans. Be as transparent as possible about how your benefits can be applied to a variety of life experiences and situations, and give real-life examples so your employees understand how they can make their benefits work for them.

Get the Word Out: Put Together a Communication Strategy

Consistent communication is key to any successful program. Pair your trainings and informational sessions with a communication strategy that provides employees with educational resources and calls-to-action to access their benefits.

In order to make sure your communications are effective, tailor your strategy to what works best for your employees. Poll them to find out how they prefer to be communicated with to make sure you reach every demographic and present your information in various ways and through various channels, such as in-person meetings, paper memos, e-mail reminders, or digital flyers.

Benefits are Key: Explore Other Options

EAPs are a great option for many employers; however, there are other options. Some employers are turning to carrier resources or investing in alternative funding solutions, such as health reimbursement accounts (HRAs) and health savings accounts (HSAs), to create more flexibility for their employees. Speak with your benefits consultant about what solution is best for your organization and your employees.

Supporting your employees’ mental health is integral to the health of your workforce and organization. By educating your employees and reinforcing the importance of these benefits, you can boost utilization and truly support each employee’s whole-person self, inside and outside of work.