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Why Many EAPs & Employee Mental Health Benefits Programs Miss the Mark

Updated: Nov 3, 2023

In recent years, many employers have started to include more mental health support and resources into employee wellness programs— only to discover that not every program is effective.

It's important for organizations to regularly evaluate their mental health programs to ensure that they are meeting the needs of employees and providing the right kinds of support.

Here are several questions to help you assess your program.

Do you have a dedicated mental health resource or partner?

According to a National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions survey, only 10% of employers have a dedicated mental health resource. (Source) Those without can easily fall behind meaningful advances in how we understand and talk about mental health and offer fewer options to people seeking support. This negatively impacts employees and puts the organization at a competitive disadvantage.

While HR can be a good resource, they often lack up-to-date training and are overwhelmed. And relying on employees to seek support through their insurance company can also be challenging, as finding a mental health provider who is available and accepts their insurance. This can result in extended wait times and limited access to care, exacerbating mental health challenges and preventing employees from getting the timely support they need.

Is your FMLA use increasing?

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) only covers mental health conditions that rise to the level of a serious health condition (i.e., requires hospital or in-patient care). With the right preventative measures in place, it wouldn’t escalate to this point.

Unfortunately, employers' most common mistake is assuming everything is ok until a crisis happens. Instead of allocating resources to preventative measures, they’re spent on crisis response. This approach doesn’t just impact the person in need but disrupts everyone in the organization.

Companies need to make a proactive effort to improve their employees' mental health and wellness, just as they make a proactive effort to promote physical wellness. This involves identifying and supporting people at risk before anything happens. It also requires a culture where employees feel safe to be themselves, valued for their unique contributions, and supported in all areas of their lives, not just at work.

Do your leaders feel confident in their mental health education?

There are two common responses to a mental health crisis at work.

  1. Not responding because no one knows how

  2. Calling 911 because no one wants to be responsible if things go wrong

These fear-based responses stem from a lack of understanding and quality training. Not surprising. The most common workplace mental health training programs are overwhelming and difficult to implement, leaving people unsure of how to apply what they’ve learned.

Before Jenny lost her dad, Scott, to suicide, he turned to his boss for help. Unfortunately, his boss didn’t know how to support him in his darkest moment. This kind of interaction—regardless of the outcome—creates feelings of helplessness, shame, and distrust that can cause long-term dysfunction in the workplace.

Our leaders need to be equipped with more than scary stats to save lives. Their education must empower them to respond confidently, effectively, and respectfully.

Do you put an emphasis on work-life balance?

Work-life balance aims to address an individual's professional and personal needs separately, whereas work-life integration takes a more holistic, blended approach. Work-life balance doesn’t allow for the same level of flexibility and control over one's schedule as integration does—and it often creates conflict and competing priorities that only add to stress levels.

Overall, emphasizing work-life integration can provide a more sustainable and effective approach to managing the demands of work and personal life, leading to improved well-being and job satisfaction for employees and benefits for employers as well.

Is your EAP program use low?

According to a Gallup survey, the approximate EAP utilization rate across seven global regions is only 2-3%. (Source)

If employees aren’t participating in the EAP, it’s a clear sign that it's either not meeting their needs or that they’re unaware the resources are available to them.

A study by McKinsey & Company found that while many organizations offer mental health resources to employees, there is often a gap between employee needs and the resources provided (Source). The study suggests that organizations can improve engagement by offering a range of resources that address different types of mental health concerns, providing support for employees at all levels of the organization, and reducing stigma around mental health.

Do your employee mental health programs have a feedback mechanism?

If your program does not have a feedback mechanism for employees to provide input on how the program is working for them, it may be difficult to improve it to meet the needs of employees.

In addition to making the program more useful, feedback mechanisms can also reduce the stigma around mental health by encouraging open conversations. You can create a culture of support and understanding around mental health by providing a safe and confidential way for employees to share their experiences and needs (Source).

Are your mental health outcomes improving?

It’s no secret that mental health challenges have a real and significant impact on employees and organizations. And while many employers have prioritized mental health and have implemented wellness programs that include mental health support, many programs fail to improve the most crucial outcomes, like:

  • Crisis, grief, and loss to suicide

  • Reduced job performance and productivity

  • Decreased engagement with work

  • Communication issues with coworkers

  • Increased absenteeism, presenteeism, and turnover

Addressing mental health in the workplace requires a far more comprehensive approach than ever before. It includes creating a culture of support and openness around mental health; breaking down stigma and cultural barriers; quality training; and effective tools and resources that empower people to manage stress, build resilience, and live a life they love.

If you don’t have a program, or you have one, but it’s failing to make a meaningful difference, All That We Are® is here to help.

Together, we can implement a modern approach that meets the needs of today’s workforce by addressing all facets of mental, physical, and emotional health.

Are you ready to rewrite the mental health narrative? Let’s start the conversation.

 

All That We Are® (ATWA) is changing how society responds to mental health, emotional crises, and suicide. By challenging the traditional path of health and wellness, we're making it possible for everyone to live a life they love.

Founder, Jenny Thrasher, has a B.A. in Psychology, extensive training as a crisis counselor, and is a public educator on crisis and suicide prevention. With the knowledge she'd gained over her career and her own firsthand experiences, she founded ATWA with an inspiring vision: to help people heal by living a life they love — something traditional suicide prevention practices have failed to do.

Jenny has successfully implemented her approach in communities and organizations across the U.S. and Canada, Costa Rica, Colombia, Panama, Sudan, Italy, Dubai, the U.K., Australia, and Ireland.






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