Making mental health a top priority is growing trend for employers, employees

Making mental health a top priority is growing trend for employers, employees


Its “absolutely crucial” for employers to provide multiple options for mental healthcare to their employees, to meet their different needs, and from an equity point of view, McClendon said.

“In order to be able to actually get to a point where we have equality of mental health, we need to start from a place of equity, meaning we give people what they need when they need it,” she said. “We sort of meet them where they’re at, rather than just offering one-size-fits-all to everyone.”

This means a range of different options, she said, including traditional mental health services, face-to-face and virtual care options, employee assistance programs and digital support services.

McClendon said it’s important to get information and solutions to the different populations within a company in a way that makes sense to those employees. Outreach needs to be targeted and intentional, so they are more likely to engage or at least try to understand their options, she said. For example, to provide information from a trusted source focused on specific needs, Big Health has created videos of mental health professionals from different racial and ethnic minority communities to talk about access barriers these different communities face, and unique impacts to their mental health.

With no one-size-fits-all solution, Starr said it’s important for employers to dig into their data to understand which populations may be needing additional services, where they’re located and whether they’re largely within the dependent or employee population. With that understanding, they can investigate services with the support of their insurance company or third-party administrator.

“I would check with my consultant and broker to say what are some of the best practices in this space, and then I would go to some of the trend studies and go, ‘OK, what are some other employer trends I’m seeing in this space?'” she said. “From there, I would start to investigate clinically proven and supported solutions based on the audience and geography of where I need the additional support.”

McClendon also stressed the importance of evidence-based solutions, especially given the explosion of telehealth and other virtual care options. Employers may not always know how to vet the myriad digital mental health tools available right now, she said. It’s important to look for a culturally inclusive and responsive solution with clinical evidence and great outcomes.

“Digital therapeutics are starting to really move into healthcare,” she said. “All of these different stakeholders are trying to figure out exactly how to make decisions and understand these digital resources.”

Employers are also trying to figure out how to navigate the new world of more hybrid and remote work while keeping mental health in mind, said Bobby Kaleal, owner of Health 360 and a performance coach there. He supports individuals’ mental, physical, nutritional and emotional health, and works with companies to offer workplace wellness solutions that address mental health.

“We’re seeing employers recognize that the state of their employees is different than before and that certain things need to be addressed differently than before,” he said.

Whatever solutions employers settle on, the recognition of mental healthcare’s importance is growing among employers, Hunter said. There’s a rapidly growing recognition that mental health care isn’t an aside to health, but central to it.

“Whether you’re a payer or you’re a healthcare system or you’re an employer, understanding that emotional health is core to health, I think we’ve seen just a rapid, rapid understanding of that — and demand,” she said. “Employers, as purchasers, are demanding that be at the core of their healthcare investments. So in that sense, the pandemic has really accelerated something that has been much needed for a very long time.”

This story first appeared in our sister publication, Crain’s Cleveland Business.


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