Employers recognize the impact of employee mental health
When the pandemic shutdown began in March 2020, employers were primarily concerned with productivity and revenue. By summer, people were starting to feel the emotional effect of isolation, healthcare fears, social unrest, and unsustainable routines. We started to hear news from mainstream media about how the pandemic was taking a toll on employee mental health. By the end of the year — when we were still hunkering down at home — it was clear that significant, permanent additions were needed for mental health benefits.
The risks of not addressing this problem were great. Employee burnout had dramatically increased. Productivity levels were inconsistent, and what little revenue was still coming in was in jeopardy. Employee retention became a top issue for the HR team. It became essential for employers to find additional resources for their employees to help them get through these tough circumstances.
Expanding mental health benefits
During the pandemic, nearly 40% of employers enhanced their mental health or well-being benefits. Many companies already had employee assistance programs (EAPs) in place, but few employees knew about them or what support they offered, so HR teams ran campaigns to bring awareness to new and existing benefits.
Some of the mental health benefits that were enhanced or added included:
- Counseling through the employee assistance program (EAP)
- Online therapy sessions through a telehealth provider
- App-based solutions for mental health, meditation, sleep, and relaxation
- Onsite yoga, meditation, or mindfulness sessions
- Workshops and webinars about emotional resilience
Many of these programs were free or heavily subsidized by the employer.
Increasing access to mental health providers
More than half of Americans have employer-provided coverage for their healthcare needs. Having mental health providers included in that coverage is a straightforward way to provide millions of people with access to mental health treatment and support. However, people still struggle to get the care they need.
The mismatch between the amount of mental health providers available and the demand for care has been a long-standing issue — even before the pandemic. Health plans are currently taking action to increase the number of mental health and substance abuse providers in their network. In addition to network expansion, some health plans include guidance to help members find providers with available appointments and who are a good fit to address their specific needs.
Health tech addresses gaps in mental healthcare needs
While payers and providers worked on adding more mental health professionals to their staff, the health tech world saw an opportunity. Health tech companies saw a way to scale mental health support via technology and fill the gap between supply and demand.
The mental health apps market increased by 54.6% in a span of just two years from 2019 to 2021, and it is estimated to continue double-digit growth to 2030. Many mental health tech companies focused on solutions for stress, anxiety, and depression. Others found niche markets such as teenagers or athletes. Services provided by these apps range from online therapist sessions to on-demand meditations and much more.
Mental health apps had millions of downloads during the pandemic. Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, and Baby Boomers all proved to be eager to adopt this digital channel as a viable way to receive emotional support.
Online therapy gains popularity
Virtual care during the pandemic increased exponentially, and even as we go back to having in-person visits, mental health continues to be a top-ranking reason for getting virtual care. One reason is that the move from in-person therapy to online therapy is an easy concept for many to understand. If you could sit on a couch and talk to someone, you could also do it through your phone.
It also had all the same benefits of virtual care: have your visit from anywhere via your smartphone, reduce time spent in the waiting room, save money on transportation, and increased privacy.
Collaborative care models take hold
The healthcare industry was already moving towards the notion of collaborative care (also described as whole-person healthcare) even before the pandemic. With the additional focus on mental health due to the pandemic, this model really gained momentum. People became more familiar with the idea that mental health and physical health are intertwined — requiring primary care providers and mental health providers to communicate and share care plans.
Many healthcare providers are adopting electronic health record software systems that make collaboration much easier and create a more seamless experience for the patient. We’re also seeing more primary care providers screen for mental health during their visits — creating a convenient, safe-space moment for people to discuss any mental health concerns they may have before they get worse.
Reducing stigma surrounding mental health issues
Whether you have always prioritized your mental health, or you recently realized its importance during the last couple of years — the result of this increased awareness is a reduction in stigma. Today, people feel more comfortable acknowledging mental health issues, and they are more inclined to seek help. You just have to open your social media, and you’ll see ads for online therapy, live streams about various types of OCD, or your favorite Instagrammer discussing how she got help with post-partum depression. And now with more resources becoming available, it’s more likely that those seeking help will be able to find exactly what they need.
Tailoring mental health education and well-being practices for the nursing workforce
Acknowledging the rising nursing worker shortage and increasing awareness about mental health education, our founder, Andrew Malley, hosted a critical discussion surrounding workforce wellness practices and nursing retention with industry leaders Arianna Huffington and Kathy Sanford. This critical conversation delved deep into the nature of the unique challenges that nurses face practicing wellness techniques in their high-pressure caregiving roles.