Taking Care of Mental Health isn’t Optional

Taking Care of Mental Health Isn’t Optional | GroupHEALTHAs a business owner, you probably recognize the value of supporting the health of your employees. Likely, your employees are one of your biggest assets and they are a key ingredient in your company’s success. For years, the expectation was that you could support the physical health of your employees with a health benefits plan; unfortunately, supporting mental health wasn’t part of the equation. That has changed. These days, it has become clear that supporting mental health matters. If you want to succeed, supporting the mental health of your employees isn’t optional.

Mental Health

Before we dive into how you can support mental health, let’s take a few steps back and examine what the term ‘mental health’ really refers to. Most agree that the term ‘mental health’ refers to emotional, psychological and social well-being. Mental health affects how we think, feel and behave.

Sometimes we have a disturbance in our normal mental functioning. This disturbance can affect our ability to function; it can range from minor to catastrophic. These disturbances are sometimes referred to as mental health challenges. They may include things like anxiety, stress, depression or anything else that impacts mental health.

A mental health challenge can disturb all aspects of a person’s life, and anyone may face one. These challenges happen more often than we think. As an employer, it’s very likely that at least one of your employees will experience a mental health challenge at some point in the future. That’s why it should matter to you.

Employee Benefits and Mental Health

The main purpose behind sponsoring an employee health benefits plan is to support your employees. The right plan should provide comprehensive coverage to address both physical and mental health. Here we’re focusing on mental health because it is often overlooked. In general, an employee benefits plan can support the mental health of employees in two ways: treatment and prevention.

1. Treatment

When an employee is going through a mental health challenge, the best way to support them is with treatment. Most employee benefit plans include a variety of benefits, many that can be useful during a mental health challenge.

Extended health benefits that provide coverage for visits to a registered counsellor or psychologist are an important treatment option for your employees. These services can help the employee work through the mental health challenge and return to a healthy emotional, social and psychological state. Carefully examining the coverage amount for these types of services is important. Although it may be worrisome (cost-wise) to provide a high limit, many employers are now realizing that in the long run it is much more cost effective. Employees with unlimited or a very high limit on coverage for visits to registered counsellors or psychologist are more likely to get the help they need. This can help reduce mental health-related disability claims, decrease absences and improve turnover rates.

Prescription drug coverage is another treatment option. Whether short or long-term, some mental health challenges are best treated with medication. Ensuring the medication is easily accessible is important. Coverage that includes access to a central dispensing pharmacy can be very convenient for those on maintenance medication. A central dispensing pharmacy means prescriptions are delivered directly to the employee’s door; this can be especially helpful for someone with mental health challenges.

Paramedical services such as massage therapy or visits to a naturopath can also be valuable for employees experiencing a mental health challenge. Different treatment options work best for different people. In tandem with other treatment options, these services can help during a mental health challenge.

While not actually a treatment option, virtual healthcare can support your employees in getting treatment for a mental health challenge. Virtual healthcare gives employees the means to connect with a doctor or nurse practitioner 24 hours a day, seven days a week using a telephone or computer. This easy access is valuable because many employees do not have a family doctor and face other barriers to accessing medical care. In addition, mental health challenges often come with a stigma, so people don’t always reach out when they are experiencing a mental health challenge. Virtual healthcare helps remove some of these barriers.

2. Prevention

One of the best ways to support your employees in achieving and maintaining good mental health is to help prevent mental health challenges from occurring in the first place. Focusing on wellness is the key.

Wellness means pursuing healthy habits on a daily basis in pursuit of better physical and mental health. There are a variety of ways to do this, including: exercise, healthy eating and meditation. All of these are not just good for physical health, but for mental health too. You can support employees in pursuing wellness by including wellness benefits in your employee benefits plan. Whether it be a wellness spending account, subsidized gym membership, online personal training sessions, or lunch and learns on meditation, there are many ways to focus on wellness.

Including access to an Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) is another very important way to help prevent mental health challenges from occurring or escalating (if they have already occurred). Employees can reach out to the Employee and Family Assistance Program any hour of the day or night in order to receive support. They can connect with a counsellor over the phone and/or make arrangements for free, short-term counselling. There are also numerous articles, podcasts and toolkits online for self-serve access. This easy access to support can be a determining factor in whether a mental health challenge occurs, or not.

Educating employees about mental health is another way to prevent negative mental health events. Teaching employees about the warning signs of stress and anxiety can make them more aware of when they should seek help. Training managers to recognize when an employee is struggling with mental health is also helpful.

The High Cost of Poor Mental Health

Without support, your employees’ mental health may suffer. This can come at a high cost to your organization. According to Benefits Canada, more than a third of disability claims in 2022 were due to mental health. Disability claim costs are usually one of the biggest cost drivers for employee benefit plans. If left unchecked, disability costs can threaten the sustainability of your benefit plan. Recognizing that mental health disability claims can be preventable is an important connection.

Poor mental health often translates into more absences and more presenteeism. Both are costly to any organization. It’s important to remember that the cost to support your employees with benefits that can help treat and prevent mental health challenges is much lower than the costs of poor mental health at your company.

Good Advice is Key

If you want to succeed in business, taking care of mental health isn’t optional. Is your plan optimized to support mental health? Explore your options with one of our licensed advisors on the phone, or contact us for a comparison quote.

Whether you’re looking for extended health and dental coverage, disability coverage, or life and critical illness coverage, GroupHEALTH has affordable benefits packages that work as hard as you do.

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!

Tree Canada Supporter Badge

We’re proud to partner with Tree Canada to help compensate for our carbon footprint.

By visiting our website online, you are actively participating in our paper-free initiative—thank you!