Meeting the Need: On the Front Lines of the Employee Mental Health Crisis

Benefit Trends Executive Health March 11, 2021

A year into remote work, employee mental health has reached all-time lows. Work-from-home fatigue, pandemic exhaustion and persistent work-life balance difficulties have employees reeling.

A new study [1] reveals that nearly half of full-time workers in the U.S. are dealing with mental health issues. This marks nearly a 40% increase in the number of workers who were grappling with mental health issues before the pandemic.

Among those facing mental health challenges, 55% indicated their struggles have been affecting their work over the last year. This research echoes recent data charting a 50% rise [2] in the risk of depression and a 60% drop in focus among employees this winter—across all ages in the workplace.

An ongoing employee mental health crisis

The pandemic has certainly ramped up risks to employee mental health, but it isn’t the only stressor. The need to address the consequences of an always-on workplace culture and mental health challenges existed before COVID-19.

Providing effective support will be critical after this period ends. In the early months of the 2020 crisis, 60% of workers revealed they believed their companies could do more to support their emotional and mental health. [3]

In the employee mental health crisis, HR is on the front lines, as it may be the first resource employees turn to for help. In addition, in a time when so much is uncertain, work can be a constant.

Employers that can support employees and demonstrate empathy will help them through this time. In addition, employee benefits that include effective, accessible well-being resources will help employers protect workers’ health and productivity.

Soaring demand for mental health providers

Putting the right benefits in place isn’t as easy as it sounds. Demand for mental health providers has soared during the pandemic. Many employees in need of help are struggling to find providers, with affordable options few and far between. [4]

Yes, demand is high: In November, the American Psychological Association polled nearly 1,800 practicing psychologists. The organization found that 74% reported seeing more patients with anxiety disorders and 60% saw an increase in patients with depressive disorders. Nearly a third of psychologists are seeing more patients over the last year than before the pandemic. [5]

Clearly, an increased number of U.S. adults are in need of mental health support and care. Care can be highly effective: four in five employees treated for mental illness report improvements in work efficacy and satisfaction. [6]

Provider shortages are only one of several potential barriers to care for employees seeking mental health support. Employees may not know exactly what they need and, therefore, have difficulty navigating to the right care (or feel overwhelmed by the prospect).

They may struggle to pay for care as a result of coverage limits or gaps. Behavioral health care costs can add up quickly: office visits (in-person or via telemedicine) are five times more likely to be out-of-network than primary care appointments. [7] In addition, stigma over mental health difficulties persists, which keeps many employees suffering in silence.

Supporting the spectrum of employee well-being

While America’s present mental health crisis affects many employees, not everyone needs a therapist. Some employees need support for everyday needs, like difficulty sleeping or the reality of work-from-home fatigue. Still others will benefit from a preventive approach to holistic well-being, which can support better productivity during and after this time.

Solutions that combine coverage and support for employee mental health and well-being can address the full spectrum of care needs, from everyday stressors to more serious needs. These can include:

  • Personal or work-related stress
  • Situational anxiety or sadness
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Grief and loss
  • Marital or relationship problems
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Caregiving-related stress
  • Addiction and substance abuse

In response to the crisis in employee mental health—and the realities of remote work fatigue—ArmadaCare recently introduced WellPak. This fully insured health insurance plan layers over the primary plan to provide coverage and support for employee mental health and well-being.

WellPak addresses the difficulty of accessing care with Connect & Thrive, built-in resources for the full spectrum of mental health and well-being needs. Connect & Thrive includes care navigation, on-demand accessibility, and clinically validated care assessments to help employees get the care they need for what they’re experiencing, whether it’s chronic or in-the-moment.

Learn more about WellPak by ArmadaCare and how it can help employees work healthier and happier—now and in the future.

[1] 2020 Behavioral Health Impact Update, The Standard and Versta Research, 2021

[2] Mental Health Index, Total Brain, 2021

[3] Employee Benefit News, 2020

[4] “‘Nobody Has Openings’: Mental Health Providers Struggle to Meet Demand,” The New York Times, February 2021

[5] American Psychological Association, 2020

[6] Making the Business Case, Workplace Mental Health, 2020

[7] NAMI, 2020

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