mental health and wellness in the workplace
Employee Benefits

Is Your EAP Enough?

Morgan Young
Morgan Young
Employee Benefits

I recently wrapped up our public entity benefits conference season, and there was a key theme in most of the sessions — mental health and wellness. You’re probably reading this thinking, “I’ve got an EAP…my health plan has this covered.” I would challenge you to take a hard look at your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and be critical when determining “is it enough?”

As a society, we work more than ever, take less vacation, and (with social media) we’ve been conditioned to believe if we aren’t as happy as the people we see on Facebook than there’s something wrong with us.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 1 in 5 adult Americans experience mental health problems in a given year. That means today, 20 percent of your workforce is currently struggling with this. If you were reviewing a trend on your medical plan that says 20 percent of your workforce was struggling with heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, fill in the blank…you would immediately begin looking for programs and solutions. Well here it is folks — mental health and mental illness. And for those folks who need an ROI, it’s estimated that the global cost of mental illness was $2.5 TRILLION in 2010 and expected to grow to $6 TRILLION in 2030.

We all know there’s a stigma that prevents us from reaching out and getting help. You don’t want to be labeled as needing help. You don’t want to be seen as weak. You don’t want to admit you’re struggling. Whatever the case may be, destigmatizing mental illness is key and each of us has a role to play in this process.

The solutions for our health plans need to expand beyond just an EAP. For example: Did you know there are organizations, like Safe Call Now, that focus specifically on the first responder population? This group provides training to identify the warning signs of addiction and PTSD, helps the organization build policies that support and encourage these first responders to get help, and ultimately helps to identify and send individuals to best-in-class treatment facilities that have experience working with and treating first responders. Why is that important? Why would you ever provide a service to one group of your population and not others? Isn’t that considered discrimination? Did you know that more than 50 percent of people are going to experience addiction or PTSD? If we know that to be true, why wouldn’t we go out and find best-in-class solutions to help this population?

So now that I’ve brought down the room, what can we do to take steps and address this in our health plans?

  1. You need to understand mental illness and mental health. Get educated on the facts and understand that while you may have your own personal biases, keep them out of the workplace.
  2. Talk about it. I don’t mean standing around the breakroom over coffee and talking about it. I mean make it a part of your culture and allow grace for people to take the time they need to deal with mental illness and mental health.
  3. Finally, learn more about the additional resources you can offer to your workforce. No two organizations are the same. Lucky for you, there are several new vendors and options in the mental health and wellness space working to address the needs of our diverse workforces.

If you aren’t sure where to go from here and feel a bit overwhelmed, know that you aren’t alone. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us — we are happy to help!

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