According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Nearly 47 million people in the U.S. have experienced a mental health condition, yet more than half of these individuals are not receiving care or treatment. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, growing anxiety has further jeopardized the mental health of many employees. With May being Mental Health Month, it is important to shine a light on this prevalent issue and normalize the conversation around mental health in the workplace.

We know there has been an increase in mental health cases and claims associated with mental health. Social distancing due to shelter-in-place orders by the government have only further complicated the problem. In a recent poll from the Pew Research Center, 73% of Americans have reported feeling anxious at least a few days per week since the onset of the pandemic. In addition, usage of mindfulness apps is also on the rise, with an average of 13 more calming meditations completed per individual in March and April than the previous three months (Employee Benefit News). Finally, Express Scripts, a large pharmacy benefit manager, has reported a 21% increase in anti-anxiety medications between February 15 and March 15. Many insurance carriers and vendors have responded by extending their Employee Assistance Program (EAP) services at no cost and have offered free trials to non-members. Telehealth providers have also extended virtual behavioral health visits to support the emotional wellbeing of their members during this challenging time.

In addition to the social implications, there are also significant economic and financial impacts of mental health. Depression alone costs the American economy over $210 billion per year, according to the Center for Workplace Mental Health. In fact, depression has become the leading cause of disability in the workplace. That loss shows up in a variety of ways, such as medical and pharmacy claims, lost productivity and presentism, increased leaves of absence, disability claims and unemployment claims. Experts are now projecting mental health to be a primary cost driver. “The economic costs of mental illness will be more than cancer, diabetes, and respiratory ailments put together”, said Thomas Insel, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health USA.

What Employers Can Do

So what can employers do? Most businesses want to support their employees’ mental health and wellbeing via their benefit offerings. However, there is a shortage of mental health care providers across the U.S., and many have stopped accepting insurance altogether.

This perfect storm has sparked an increased interest in EAPs. In fact, since COVID-19, 93% of large employers have encouraged employees to utilize their EAP as part of their emergency response plan to coronavirus according to this article in Employee Benefit News. The key for employers is to partner with the right EAP provider to ensure that they are maintaining a quality network of licensed clinicians and specialists. Mental health point-solutions are also gaining popularity and span the spectrum. These include low- to no-cost mobile apps and evidence-based, gamified platforms that screen for mental illness. They deliver convenient, daily messaging therapy with clinically proven outcomes.

Finally, a successful mental health initiative must be accessible, strategic, and supported by a culture of psychological safety. Through the right benefits and communication to employees around how to tap into the resources that are available, employers can help foster a culture that destigmatizes mental health issues and makes people feel supported and empowered. This Mental Health Month, consider how you can care for your greatest asset – your people.

MMA Is Here To Help

Wherever your company is at in the mental health conversation, it is important to keep in mind the broader social and financial impacts of mental health on your success. Marsh & McLennan Agency’s mission is to be there for you in the moments that matter, and help you take care of your valuable team members through strategic employee health and benefits offerings. Now more than ever, your employees need you.

Click here to access Marsh & McLennan Agency’s Mental Health Toolkit, where you can access educational information on common conditions both in and out of the workplace and get in touch with an MMA representative. Marsh & McLennan Agency is a full-service business insurance and employee benefits brokerage. Marsh & McLennan Agency helps organizations identify risk and opportunities, secure coverage from best-of-breed providers, and create risk management and employee benefits programs that power your strategic objectives.

Katie Jones is a Client Service Executive in MMA’s Employee Health & Benefits Division, providing world-class customer service and support to clients with enrollment, claims, and any other needs that arise. Katie has over 12 years of experience in the insurance industry and is currently pursuing an Executive MBA with an emphasis on leadership, innovation and global business strategies at Loyola Marymount University, graduating in May of 2020.

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