Your Bottom Line: The Importance of Comprehensive Mental Health Benefits

Jun 15, 2021

Recently, Naomi Osaka, a world-class tennis player, withdrew from the French and German Open, citing a need to tend to her mental health. Her decision sparked an international conversation about mental health and the stigmas that still exist around mental illness. Amid backlash from the media and tournament officials regarding her decision to withdraw, a host of professional athletes, advertising sponsors, and the general public have come out in support of Naomi’s openness about her mental health. Michael Phelps, long outspoken about mental health issues among athletes, told Time magazine “This will 100% save somebody’s life. That’s something bigger than we can ever imagine.”

It’s a conversation that business owners should pay attention to. In 2019, nearly 52 million Americans suffered from mental illnesses, but less than half of them received treatment for them. Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and yet, in a recent Learn to Live Study, nearly 62% of those polled said their boss would judge them if they requested time off for mental health care. In fact, seven of ten respondents said they would rather take an entire day off rather than a couple of hours- all to avoid telling their supervisor why they were taking time off, and 41% of those polled said that the cost of mental health care was a barrier to getting the help that they need.

According to the National Institue of Mental Health, major mental illness costs the U.S. over $193 billion each year and the American Psychiatric Foundation says that, as of 2019, it cost companies nearly $44 billion annually in lost productivity due to untreated depression in the workforce. All that to say that comprehensive mental health benefits can not only greatly benefit your employees but benefit your bottom line. What does a comprehensive benefits plan look like? Read on for some great ideas about how to create a mental health benefits plan that goes beyond health insurance coverage.

Mental Health Coverage- it’s the law

Did you know that your group health plan is required to cover mental health and substance abuse benefits? Under the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Act (MHPAEA) of 2008, your health plan must “offer the same access to care and patient costs for mental health/substance abuse disorders benefits as those that apply to medical or surgical benefits.” Not only is your health plan required to treat medical care and mental health care equally in terms of out-of-pocket costs, benefit limits, and authorizations, but it must also contain a single combined deductible for mental health and medical coverage.

1) Establish an Employee Assistance Plan (EAP)

EAPs can provide early intervention to a host of issues beyond mental health problems. It serves to identify and help resolve issues that may interfere with an employee’s productivity and range from financial education to substance abuse issues.

2) Provide Resiliency and Stress Relief Education

Encouraging open and honest discourse about stress, overwhelm, and burnout can help head anxiety and depression off at the pass. Providing training and resources to learn to deal with the unique stressors that are involved in your business can prepare your employees to function at their highest level.

3) Discounts with Local and Online Wellness Providers

Partnering with local wellness providers to provide discounted services to your employees can help with the overall health of your employee. The COVID lockdown led to a huge surge in online mental health providers and other wellness offerings that can provide an inexpensive, accessible option to your employees. Consider creating partnerships with massage therapists, nutritionists, or health clubs.

4) Offer Mental Health Days

Destigmatize the “mental health day” in your organization by offering them as part of your PTO plan. Many companies are offering as much as three hours a month specifically for “Mental Health Days.” Having a category set aside specifically normalizes the conversation around mental health and allows for open, honest discourse about its effects on your employees.

At the end of the day, mental illness is a human problem that affects us all in one way or another. Creating an environment where open conversations about mental health issues are encouraged and offering opportunities that support and educate your employees are just a couple of the ways that you can encourage solid mental health in your business. There is a wide variety of options available to suit the needs of your business and your employees. Talk to a TEBPro today for more information!

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