Mental Health Benefits Spotlight


Posted by: Altura Benefits in Insurance

mental health benefits
Your employees may need mental health support – and they may expect you to provide it. Mental health benefits have become a critical tool as employers struggle to boost worker productivity, retention, and recruitment. From self-care apps and telehealth benefits to employee assistance programs, employers are stepping up their game.

Employees Are Struggling

The National Institute of Mental Health says mental illness impacts more than one in five U.S. adults. Mental illness is even more prevalent among U.S. adults between the ages of 18 and 25, impacting 33.7% of individuals.

In the past, workers may have tried to hide their depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. However, this is changing. During the pandemic, many people reached a breaking point. This forced them to admit they needed help and become more open about their mental health.

Attitudes toward mental health are also undergoing a generational shift. According to a report from the American Psychological Association, members of Generation Z are more likely to report poor mental health and to seek help. Only 45% of Generation Z respondents reported excellent or very good mental health, compared to 56% of Millennials, 51% of Generation Xers, and 70% of Boomers. Additionally, 37% of Generation Zers reported receiving help from a psychologist or other mental health professional, compared to 35% of Millennials, 26% of Generation Xers, and only 22% of Boomers.

This is a workplace problem as well as a personal problem. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 12 billion work days are lost each year due to depression and anxiety. This costs employers $1 trillion a year in lost productivity.

Stress can also be a costly problem. The Mayo Clinic says stress can cause various physical symptoms, including sleep problems, headaches, and stomach upset. Stress can also result in a lack of motivation or focus, angry outbursts, and other negative impacts on mood and behavior. According to the American Psychological Association, research has found that job stress in the U.S. could result in losses of $187 billion, most of which is due to declines in productivity.

Employers can benefit from having a mentally healthy workforce just as they can a physically healthy one.

What Employees Want from Mental Health Benefits

There’s another reason employers should pay attention to mental health: increasingly, workers expect their employers to promote overall wellbeing, which includes mental health support.

In the 2023 Workplace Mental Health Trends Report from Calm, 67% of people surveyed said employers should help with providing mental health support for stress and anxiousness. Additionally, 63% said preventative mental healthcare is just as important as preventative physical healthcare and 75% said their mental health is closely related to their physical health.

The takeaway is clear: offering benefits that only support physical health is no longer enough to satisfy the majority of employees. Today’s workers expect their health benefits to include mental health support.

Expansion of Benefits for Mental Health

Since benefits can play a key role in a worker’s decision to stay at a job, offering mental health benefits can be an important recruitment and retention strategy. By supporting wellbeing, mental health benefits may also boost productivity and engagement.

According to the 2022 Employer Health Benefits Survey from KFF, access to mental and behavioral health services has been a concern for employers for years. The COVID-19 pandemic increased the amount of attention these areas receive. Many employers are now offering mental and behavioral health benefits. Of firms offering health benefits:

  • 13% say they expanded the availability of mental health services in 2022. Of firms with at least 1,000 workers, 33% expanded the availability of mental health services.
  • 28% say they’ve seen an increase in employees seeking mental health and substance abuse services in the past year.

Telehealth for Mental Health

Telehealth surged in popularity and acceptance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Mental health has been a popular application.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness says telehealth is an effective way to provide access to mental healthcare when providers and patients are in different locations, such as in rural areas without enough psychiatrists to meet demand. Telehealth also removes barriers of access to care (such as issues with transportation) and increases access to culturally-competent and clinically-specific providers.

Furthermore, some people may simply prefer telehealth for mental health due to the privacy and convenience. According to the American Psychiatric Association, nearly six in 10 Americans say they would use telehealth to access mental health services and more than one in three say they would prefer telehealth options over in-person options.

The KFF survey found that 75% of all firms believe telemedicine is either somewhat important or a great deal important to providing access to mental health services.

EAPs for Mental Health Support

Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are a popular way to provide support for mental health, substance abuse disorders, and various personal issues that can contribute to stress in the workplace.

The Workplace Outcome Suite© 2020 Annual Report found that full-service EAPs can help with presenteeism, work engagement, workplace distress, work absenteeism, and overall life satisfaction. In 56% of cases, workers said their issue was making it difficult for them to concentrate on work. EAP counseling cut the incidence of work presenteeism in half.

Many firms are paying attention, especially larger firms. KFF says 81% of all large firms report offering an EAP for mental health services. Of companies with 1,000 to 4,999 employees, 90% offer this benefit and of companies with 5,000 or more workers, 97% do.

Mental Health Self-Care Apps

Apps provide a solution for employers who need a low-cost and easy way to support mental health. As an employee perk, employers can provide subscriptions to self-care apps that help with meditation, mindfulness, and coping with common issues like insomnia. Some apps also offer online therapy and other resources.

There are many apps on the market, all with different features.

  • Calm Business provides mental health support for employees and their families. The app includes guided meditation, breathing exercise, tools to support a work–life balance, and more.
  • Headspace is a mindfulness-based mental health app that aims to reduce stress and burnout.
  • Talkspace provides mental health solutions to improve employee wellbeing and reduce medical claims spending. The program provides access to a network of therapists and medical prescribers.

Self-care apps like these have become a popular way of providing mental health support. According to KFF, 44% of all large firms say they offer mental health self-care apps. Notably, 12% of firms weren’t sure whether they offered these benefits.

Do Your Health Benefits Provide Enough Mental Health Support?

To compete for top talent, employers need to provide appealing employee benefits. Mental health benefits are increasingly becoming part of the overall package. Altura Benefits can help you put together the ideal employee benefits package to meet your needs. Learn more.